A Hamlet Sampler

Leithart | 4/19/2018 | Staff
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Literary uses.

Many writers allude directly and indirectly to Hamlet the play and Hamlet the prince. Melville’s Pierre tears up his copy of Hamlet while vowing to act on the new revelations concerning his dead father. Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister aspires to produce Hamlet, Eliot alludes to Hamlet in Prufrock and Waste Land, and Kafka and Mallarme make use of the Hamlet character in their writing. This is not to mention those works overtly inspired by Hamlet, including Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Updike’s racy Gertrude and Claudius.

Use - Play - Joyce - Ulysses - Stephen

Perhaps the most famous literary use of the play is in Joyce’s Ulysses. Not only is Stephen Daedalus a Hamlet figure in his own right (an intellectual searching for a father, burdened with the vocation to put right what is wrong with Irish letters); not only is the novel pockmarked with quotations from Shakespeare’s play, but Daedalus offers an explicit theory about the origins of Hamlet. In the “Scylla and Charybdis” chapter set at the National Library of Dublin, Stephen argues for an autobiographical interpretation of the play:

man. It is a mystical estate, an apostolic succession, from only begetter to only begotten. On that mystery and not on the madonna which the cunning Italian intellect flung to the mob of Europe the church is founded and founded irremovably because founded, like the world, macro- and microcosm, upon the void. Upon incertitude, upon unlikelihood. Amor matris, subjective and objective genitive, may be the only true thing in life. Paternity may be a legal fiction. Who is the father of any son that any son should love him or he any son?”

Play - Rivalry - Shakespeare - Brothers - Theme

Rather, the play arose form rivalry between Shakespeare and his brothers. Pointing to the recurring theme of three brothers in Shakespeare’s plays, Stephen argues as follows:

“—You will say those names were already in the chronicles from...
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