Hamlet's Perfection

Hamlet's Perfection

by William Kerrigan
     
 

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How does the rash yet serene Hamlet of act 5 arise from the passive and grief-stricken Hamlet of act 1? What path leads him from sickened thoughts of birth and incest to the certainty that thoughtfulness itself must be escaped through bold action? The roles of Senecan avenger and patient Christian may seem worlds apart, observes William Kerrigan, but Shakespeare

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Overview

How does the rash yet serene Hamlet of act 5 arise from the passive and grief-stricken Hamlet of act 1? What path leads him from sickened thoughts of birth and incest to the certainty that thoughtfulness itself must be escaped through bold action? The roles of Senecan avenger and patient Christian may seem worlds apart, observes William Kerrigan, but Shakespeare fused them in a character that has fascinated the world for centuries.

In this lively study, Kerrigan celebrates both Hamlet's perfectionthe character's creation of new ideals out of an inheritance of disillusionment—and Hamlet 's perfection—the play's brilliance as Shakespeare's greatest tragedy. Kerrigan's approach reflects his interests in literary formalism, historical scholarship, intellectual history, and psychoanalysis.

Editorial Reviews

Philosophy and Literature

Kerrigan's reading of the tradition is illuminating, subtle, informed, and informative, and he uses it to establish his reading of the play, working within the tradition but extending it to hitherto unseen and insightful ways.

Booknews
It is both the character and the play that are flawless, says Kerrigan (English, U. of Massachusetts). He traces how the young man creates new ideals out of an inheritance of disillusionment, transforming himself from anguished impotent to bold avenger; and shows how the play contains and portrays the transformation without a seam. He also scoffs at recent criticism of the play. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801854682
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
09/19/1996
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
200
Sales rank:
1,250,046
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Murray M. Schwartz

Kerrigan is a consummate scholar. He shows the historical currents within which Hamlet was created and has lived until the present moment. There are flashes of brilliance throughout the book, and a great deal of original and provocative dialogue with other readings of the play—including a powerful thesis about Hamlet's relation to the Senecan tradition. The writing is energetic, accessible, readable, and refreshingly free of the codified terminology of so much contemporary criticism.

Meet the Author

William Kerrigan is professor of English at the University of Massachusetts. His books include The Prophetic Milton and The Sacred Complex.

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