“We all sympathize with Hamlet, and that is understandable, because almost every one of us recognizes in the prince our own characteristics.” – Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) Russian novelist and playwright.
Hamlet raises many questions that you may recognize from your own life. Thinking about some of these issues will make your experience of the play more interesting and rewarding. Discuss one of the following questions in your blog. Write about any ideas you find interesting or thought-provoking.
- We all have procrastinated about something important that we had to do, sometimes disappointing other people and often disappointing ourselves. Why do we procrastinate?
- Most people have purposely “played the fool” at some time. Why do people do this? If a person for some reason plays the fool or pretends to be disturbed for a long time, do you think the person eventually can become truly disturbed?
- Isolation and loneliness are feelings common to most people at one time or another. Sometimes external circumstances create this situation, and sometimes people deliberately withdraw from those around them. What can friends or relatives do when someone has purposely withdrawn and chosen to be alone with his or her problems?
- Disillusion is a common experience of growing up. We find that people in the adult world whom we once idealized are less than ideal, and that situations we considered innocent are actually corrupt. How do young people encountering the “real world” for the first time handle these discoveries?
- In Shakespeare’s time, insane people were regarded as sources of entertainment. What is our society’s attitude toward mental illness?
- What is the difference between “taking revenge” and “getting justice”?
- Privacy is highly valued in our society. How would you feel if you found out you were “under surveillance” at school, at your job, at home, or among friends because of some change in your behaviour?
- What are you launching out to believe in your life? What are you seeking to know? How well are you using your mind in discovering the truth that you are here to know?
“We feel not only the virtues, but the weaknesses of Hamlet as our own.” – Henry MacKenzie (1745-1831), Scottish author
“Hamlet is the most baffling of the great plays. It is the tragedy of a man and an action continually baffled by wisdom. The man is too wise … The task set by the dead is a simple one. All tasks are simple to the simple-minded. To the delicate and complex mind so much of life is bound up with every act that any violent act involves not only a large personal sacrifice of ideal, but a tearing up of the roots of half the order of the world.” – John Masefield (1878 – 1967), British poet laureate
“Polonius is a man bred in courts, exercised in business, stored with observations, confident in his knowledge, proud of his eloquence, and declining into dotage.” – Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784), British essayist, biographer, and developer of the first English dictionary
“It has been stated that Hamlet is the only one of Shakespeare’s characters who could have written the plays of his creator.” – Betty Bealey (1913 -2008)
“Hamlet again is an example of the removed thinker who is cut off – better who has cut himself off – from human affairs, from life. Who ever thinks of Hamlet as possessing a body? Hamlet is pure mind, a dynamo of thought whirring in the void. He never stopped to put his hand in the garbage can. He is Prince of Idleness, an addict of thought and futile speculation.” – Henry Miller (1891 – 1980), American novelist
“Hamlet! Hamlet! When I think of his moving wild speech, in which resounds the groaning of the whole numbed universe, there breaks from my soul not one reproach, not one sigh … That soul is then so utterly oppressed by woe that it fears to grasp the woe entire, lest it lacerate itself.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881), Russian novelist
“Hamlet’s will … is paralyzed. He seeks to move in one direction and is hauled in another. One moment he sinks into the abyss. The next, he rises above the clouds. His feet seek the ground, but find only air….” – Stephen Leacock (1869 – 1944) Canadian author and humorist
“Hamlet is loathsome and repugnant. The fact that he is eloquent has nothing to do with him being obnoxious. He’s an aging playboy. The only time he gets animated is when he bosses around the players, telling them how to do their business.” – Charles Marowitz (b. 1934), American director, playwright, and critic
“Despite the initial view we get of Hamlet’s abhorrence of deception, he tries to dupe everyone else in the play.” – Michael M. Cohen (b. 1943), British Shakespeare critic
“This is the story of a man who could not make up his mind.” – Sir Laurence Olivier (1907 – 1989), British actor/director
“Hamlet is like a sponge. If he is not played in a stylized or antiquated manner, he immediately soaks up the entire contemporary scene unto himself. It is the most unique of all plays that have ever been written, because of its porosity.” – Jan Kott (1914 – 2001), Polish political activist, critic and theoretician of the theatre
“Shakespeare wrote of Hamlet as if Hamlet he were; and having, in the first instance, imagined his hero excited to partial insanity by the disclosures of the ghost – he (the poet) felt that it was natural he should be impelled to exaggerate the insanity.” – Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849), American poet, short story writer, and novelist
“Hamlet, this tragedy of maniacs. this Royal Bedlam, in which every character is either crazy or criminal, in which feigned madness is added to real madness and in which the grave itself furnishes the stage with the skull of a fool ….” – François René de Chateaubriand (1768 – 1848), French poet and essayist
“Character … is destiny. But not the whole of our destiny. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, was speculative and irresolute, and we have a great tragedy in consequence. But if his father had lived to a good old age, and his uncle had died an early death, we can conceive Hamlet’s having married Ophelia, and got through life with a reputation of sanity, notwithstanding many soliloquies, and some moody sarcasms toward the fair daughter of Polonius, to say nothing of the frankest incivility to his father-in-law.” – George Eliot (1819 – 1880), British novelist
“The most maligned man in history, one whose memory I propose not only to defend but to extol, is the man who complained that Hamlet was a boring play full of quotations, thereby proving the soundness of his literary instinct. Honour to this anonymous critic, whose sensitive though unlettered brain. stunned into apathy as one well-known phrase after another came booming accross the footlights ….” – Dame Ethel Smyth (1958 – 1944), English composer and a leader of the women’s suffrage movement
“Hamlet is a great story. It’s got some great things in it. I mean there’s something like eight violent deaths, there’s murder, there’s adultery, there’s a ghost, a madwoman, poisoning, revenge, sword fights. It’s a pretty good story.” – Mel Gibson, American actor
Hamlet Study Guide