Monday, February 12, 2024

An adolescent brat

Patrick Kurp likes Hamlet least of Shakespeare’s major plays:
Of Shakespeare’s major plays, Hamlet is easily my least favorite, largely because of the title character. He is insufferable. Hamlet is touchy, pretentious, utterly self-centered – an adolescent brat, a template for the modern intellectual. It’s difficult to take his drama-queen emotional state seriously. My sympathies go out to Polonius and, of course, Ophelia. They and others are merely toyed with by Hamlet, never respected as individuals.

Historically, Hamlet has been the subject of enormously varying understandings. It’s a Rorschach test. W.H. Auden delivered his lecture on the play at the New School for Social Research on this date, February 12, in 1947. “Hamlet is intensely self-absorbed,” Auden writes, “and that self-interest continues to the very last minute.” He seems incapable of empathy, of imaginatively projecting himself into others, even his mother. As Auden phrases it, “Aversion keeps one related but detached.” ....

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