Shakespeares Revenge

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Macbeth, written in for James I, whose parliament had nearly been blown sky-high in what would have been the largest act of terrorism in English history, trains a beady eye on those in power.


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In Berlin last year I interviewed the director Thomas Ostermeier , who had recently brought his own German production of Hamlet back from the Jenin camp in Ramallah. His company had performed the play and stayed for days of workshops.

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They had encountered Prince Hamlets by the dozen, Ostermeier said: angry, frustrated young Palestinian men denied freedom of movement, trapped in an impossible bind. On the one hand, there were father figures inciting them to murder themselves in the name of revenge; on the other, an Israeli government that seemed to regard every male under the age of 30 as a dangerous suspect. Topics William Shakespeare Opinion. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded.

Much of the play's Protestant tones derive from its setting in Denmark—both then and now a predominantly Protestant country, [l] though it is unclear whether the fictional Denmark of the play is intended to portray this implicit fact. Dialogue refers explicitly to the German city of Wittenberg where Hamlet, Horatio, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern attend university, implying where the Protestant reformer Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-five Theses to the church door in Hamlet is often perceived as a philosophical character, expounding ideas that are now described as relativist , existentialist , and sceptical.

For example, he expresses a subjectivistic idea when he says to Rosencrantz: "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so". Hamlet reflects the contemporary scepticism promoted by the French Renaissance humanist Michel de Montaigne. Hamlet's " What a piece of work is a man " seems to echo many of Montaigne's ideas, and many scholars have discussed whether Shakespeare drew directly from Montaigne or whether both men were simply reacting similarly to the spirit of the times.

Freud does not offer over-all interpretations of the plays, but uses the two tragedies to illustrate and corroborate his psychological theories, which are based on his treatments of his patients and on his studies.

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Productions of Hamlet have used Freud's ideas to support their own interpretations. He says that "in their amorous or hostile attitude toward their parents" neurotics reveal something that occurs with less intensity "in the minds of the majority of children". Freud explores the reason " Oedipus Rex is capable of moving a modern reader or playgoer no less powerfully than it moved the contemporary Greeks". He suggests that "It may be that we were all destined to direct our first sexual impulses toward our mothers, and our first impulses of hatred and violence toward our fathers.

These ideas, which became a cornerstone of Freud's psychological theories, he named the " Oedipus Complex ", and, at one point, he considered calling it the "Hamlet Complex".

Shakespeare, Revenge Tragedy and Early Modern Law

Hamlet is able to perform any kind of action except take revenge on the man who murdered his father and has taken his father's place with his mother—Claudius has led Hamlet to realize the repressed desires of his own childhood. The loathing which was supposed to drive him to revenge is replaced by "self-reproach, by conscientious scruples" which tell him "he himself is no better than the murderer whom he is required to punish". Freud suggests that the character Hamlet goes through an experience that has three characteristics, which he numbered: 1 "the hero is not psychopathic, but becomes so" during the course of the play.

The audience identifies with the character of Hamlet, because "we are victims of the same conflict. Freud points out that Hamlet is an exception in that psychopathic characters are usually ineffective in stage plays; they "become as useless for the stage as they are for life itself", because they do not inspire insight or empathy, unless the audience is familiar with the character's inner conflict. Freud says, "It is thus the task of the dramatist to transport us into the same illness.

The Tragedy of Vengeance in Shakespeare's Masterpiece: [Essay Example], words GradesFixer

John Barrymore 's long-running performance in New York, directed by Thomas Hopkins, "broke new ground in its Freudian approach to character", in keeping with the post-World War I rebellion against everything Victorian. Influenced by Jones's psychoanalytic approach, several productions have portrayed the "closet scene", where Hamlet confronts his mother in her private quarters, in a sexual light. Ophelia's madness after her father's death may also be read through the Freudian lens: as a reaction to the death of her hoped-for lover, her father.

Ophelia is overwhelmed by having her unfulfilled love for him so abruptly terminated and drifts into the oblivion of insanity.


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  • In the Bloom's Shakespeare Through the Ages volume on Hamlet, editors Bloom and Foster express a conviction that the intentions of Shakespeare in portraying the character of Hamlet in the play exceeded the capacity of the Freudian Oedipus complex to completely encompass the extent of characteristics depicted in Hamlet throughout the tragedy: "For once, Freud regressed in attempting to fasten the Oedipus Complex upon Hamlet: it will not stick, and merely showed that Freud did better than T.

    Eliot, who preferred Coriolanus to Hamlet , or so he said. Who can believe Eliot, when he exposes his own Hamlet Complex by declaring the play to be an aesthetic failure? Joshua Rothman has written in The New Yorker that "we tell the story wrong when we say that Freud used the idea of the Oedipus complex to understand Hamlet ". Rothman suggests that "it was the other way around: Hamlet helped Freud understand, and perhaps even invent, psychoanalysis". He concludes, "The Oedipus complex is a misnomer.

    It should be called the 'Hamlet complex'.

    Internet Shakespeare Editions

    In the s, Lacan's structuralist theories about Hamlet were first presented in a series of seminars given in Paris and later published in "Desire and the Interpretation of Desire in Hamlet ". Lacan postulated that the human psyche is determined by structures of language and that the linguistic structures of Hamlet shed light on human desire.

    In the 20th century, feminist critics opened up new approaches to Gertrude and Ophelia. New Historicist and cultural materialist critics examined the play in its historical context, attempting to piece together its original cultural environment. In this analysis, the essence of Hamlet is the central character's changed perception of his mother as a whore because of her failure to remain faithful to Old Hamlet. In consequence, Hamlet loses his faith in all women, treating Ophelia as if she too were a whore and dishonest with Hamlet. Ophelia, by some critics, can be seen as honest and fair; however, it is virtually impossible to link these two traits, since 'fairness' is an outward trait, while 'honesty' is an inward trait.

    This analysis has been praised by many feminist critics, combating what is, by Heilbrun's argument, centuries' worth of misinterpretation. By this account, Gertrude's worst crime is of pragmatically marrying her brother-in-law in order to avoid a power vacuum. This is borne out by the fact that King Hamlet's ghost tells Hamlet to leave Gertrude out of Hamlet's revenge, to leave her to heaven, an arbitrary mercy to grant to a conspirator to murder. Ophelia has also been defended by feminist critics, most notably Elaine Showalter.

    All three disappear: Laertes leaves, Hamlet abandons her, and Polonius dies. Conventional theories had argued that without these three powerful men making decisions for her, Ophelia is driven into madness. Showalter points out that Ophelia has become the symbol of the distraught and hysterical woman in modern culture.

    Hamlet is one of the most quoted works in the English language, and is often included on lists of the world's greatest literature. Academic Laurie Osborne identifies the direct influence of Hamlet in numerous modern narratives, and divides them into four main categories: fictional accounts of the play's composition, simplifications of the story for young readers, stories expanding the role of one or more characters, and narratives featuring performances of the play.

    English poet John Milton was an early admirer of Shakespeare and took evident inspiration from his work. As John Kerrigan discusses, Milton originally considered writing his epic poem Paradise Lost as a tragedy. As scholar Christopher N. Warren argues, Paradise Lost ' s Satan "undergoes a transformation in the poem from a Hamlet-like avenger into a Claudius-like usurper," a plot device that supports Milton's larger Republican internationalist project.

    Henry Fielding 's Tom Jones , published about , describes a visit to Hamlet by Tom Jones and Mr Partridge, with similarities to the "play within a play". When Baum had been touring New York State in the title role, the actor playing the ghost fell through the floorboards, and the rural audience thought it was part of the show and demanded that the actor repeat the fall, because they thought it was funny. Baum would later recount the actual story in an article, but the short story is told from the point of view of the actor playing the ghost. In the s, James Joyce managed "a more upbeat version" of Hamlet —stripped of obsession and revenge—in Ulysses , though its main parallels are with Homer 's Odyssey.


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    • In Angela Carter 's Wise Children , To be or not to be [] is reworked as a song and dance routine, and Iris Murdoch 's The Black Prince has Oedipal themes and murder intertwined with a love affair between a Hamlet -obsessed writer, Bradley Pearson, and the daughter of his rival. There is the story of the woman who read Hamlet for the first time and said, "I don't see why people admire that play so.

      It is nothing but a bunch of quotations strung together. Shakespeare almost certainly wrote the role of Hamlet for Richard Burbage. He was the chief tragedian of the Lord Chamberlain's Men , with a capacious memory for lines and a wide emotional range. Firm evidence for specific early performances of the play is scant.

      What is known is that the crew of the ship Red Dragon , anchored off Sierra Leone , performed Hamlet in September ; [] [] [] that the play toured in Germany within five years of Shakespeare's death; [] and that it was performed before James I in and Charles I in All theatres were closed down by the Puritan government during the Interregnum.

      The play was revived early in the Restoration. When the existing stock of pre- civil war plays was divided between the two newly created patent theatre companies , Hamlet was the only Shakespearean favourite that Sir William Davenant's Duke's Company secured. Although chided for "acknowledging acquaintances in the audience" and "inadequate memorisation of his lines", he became a national celebrity.

      Of these, Booth remained to make his career in the States, fathering the nation's most notorious actor, John Wilkes Booth who later assassinated Abraham Lincoln , and its most famous Hamlet, Edwin Booth. In the United Kingdom, the actor-managers of the Victorian era including Kean, Samuel Phelps , Macready, and Henry Irving staged Shakespeare in a grand manner, with elaborate scenery and costumes.

      George Bernard Shaw 's praise for Johnston Forbes-Robertson 's performance contains a sideswipe at Irving: "The story of the play was perfectly intelligible, and quite took the attention of the audience off the principal actor at moments. What is the Lyceum coming to? In London, Edmund Kean was the first Hamlet to abandon the regal finery usually associated with the role in favour of a plain costume, and he is said to have surprised his audience by playing Hamlet as serious and introspective.

      In contrast to the "effeminate" view of the central character that usually accompanied a female casting, she described her character as "manly and resolute, but nonetheless thoughtful In France, Charles Kemble initiated an enthusiasm for Shakespeare; and leading members of the Romantic movement such as Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas saw his Paris performance of Hamlet , particularly admiring the madness of Harriet Smithson 's Ophelia. Konstantin Stanislavski and Edward Gordon Craig —two of the 20th century's most influential theatre practitioners —collaborated on the Moscow Art Theatre 's seminal production of — Hamlet is often played with contemporary political overtones.

      Leopold Jessner 's production at the Berlin Staatstheater portrayed Claudius's court as a parody of the corrupt and fawning court of Kaiser Wilhelm. In this production, the actors playing Hamlet, Claudius and Polonius exchanged roles at crucial moments in the performance, including the moment of Claudius's death, at which point the actor mainly associated with Hamlet fell to the ground. Notable stagings in London and New York include Barrymore's production at the Haymarket ; it influenced subsequent performances by John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier.

      The staging, known as the "G. Olivier does not speak poetry badly. He does not speak it at all. Richard Burton received his third Tony Award nomination when he played his second Hamlet, his first under John Gielgud's direction, in in a production that holds the record for the longest run of the play in Broadway history performances. The performance was set on a bare stage, conceived to appear like a dress rehearsal, with Burton in a black v-neck sweater, and Gielgud himself tape-recorded the voice for the ghost which appeared as a looming shadow.