Stay, Illusion!

Stay, Illusion!

The Hamlet Doctrine

Book - 2013
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Random House, Inc.

The figure of Hamlet haunts our culture like the ghost haunts Shakespeare’s melancholy Dane. Arguably, no literary work is more familiar to us. Everyone knows at least six words fromHamlet, and most people know many more. Yet the play—Shakespeare’s longest—is more than “passing strange,” and it becomes even more complex when considered closely.

Reading Hamlet alongside other writers, philosophers, and psychoanalysts—Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Freud, Lacan, Nietzsche, Melville, and Joyce—Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster go in search of a particularly modern drama that is as much about ourselves as it is a product of Shakespeare’s imagination. They also offer a startling interpretation of the action onstage: it is structured around “nothing”—or, in the enigmatic words of the player queen, “it nothing must.”

From the illusion of theater and the spectacle of statecraft to the psychological interplay of inhibition and emotion,Hamlet discloses the modern paradox of our lives: how thought and action seem to pull against each other, the one annulling the possibility of the other. As a counterweight to Hamlet’s melancholy paralysis, Ophelia emerges as the play’s true hero. In her madness, she lives the love of which Hamlet is incapable.

Avoiding the customary clichés about the timelessness of the Bard, Critchley and Webster show the timely power ofHamlet to cast light on the intractable dilemmas of human existence in a world that is rotten and out of joint.

Baker & Taylor
A passionate analysis of Shakespeare's Hamlet explores the prismatic qualities that enable the play to project meaning, providing original perspectives to consider the Hamlet's political context, relation to religion and reflection of love and desire.

Book News
Critchley (philosophy, New School) and Webster (psychology, New School) present a stimulating reading of Hamlet that stresses its contradictions, its techniques of emotional manipulation, how it plays with spectral notions of "nothing," and its enduring relevance for understanding something deeply nagging about the human condition. They argue in the end that Ophelia is the play's true hero for living the love its protagonist cannot, and for that reason succumbs to madness. There is no shortage of continental philosophers (Hegel & Nietzsche), psychoanalysts (Freud & Lacan), and even political theorists (Benjamin & Schmitt) whose names they drop and otherwise reference. The book is at times as much about Hamlet's effect on these thinkers than on Hamlet as seen through these thinkers. The book is organized into three sections roughly though not explicitly aligned with these groups of past readers, while the chapters are often very short (3-5 pages) and aphoristic, bearing witty titles that seem to nod to Nietzsche's influence. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

An analysis of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" explores the prismatic qualities that enable the play to project meaning, considering Hamlet's political context, relation to religion, and reflection of love and desire.

Publisher: New York :, Pantheon Books,, [2013]
Edition: 1st edition
Description: xi, 269 p. ; 21 cm
Copyright Date: ©2013
ISBN: 9780307907615
Branch Call Number: 822.33 S8 Cri
Additional Contributors: Webster, Jamieson.


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