Literary Criticism

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‘Hide Fox, and All After’

What is Concealed in Shakespeare’s Hamlet?

J. D. Winter is a schoolmaster by profession. From 1994 to 2006 he lived in Kolkata, India, where he taught and wrote for The Statesman, and translated Bengali poetry and prose (Carcanet Press publications). He has translated the Anglo-Saxon epic ‘Beowulf’ and the Middle English poem ‘Pearl’ into modern English. His UK published books include: ‘Song Offerings’ by Rabindranath Tagore; ‘Bengal the Beautiful’, a sonnet-sequence by Jibanananda Das; Calcutta Song, an account of living in Kolkata; and Two Loves I Have: A New Reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Is there anything more to say on Hamlet? ‘Hide fox, and all after,’ a casual quip of the Prince, as he and his enemy the King start to hunt each other down, is taken as the title for this closely-considered survey of the play. J.D. Winter finds question after question in it raised and unanswered, as if the play’s dramatic method were in part to create uncertainty in its audience and so draw them in. He adopts three phrases from the text to provide a context for his approach: the play’s the thing, a rhapsody of words, and the invisible event. The first phrase suggests the spectacle itself, without regard to what has been written about it. There is no reference to outside opinion nor is another literary work named. The second indicates an awareness of the text as poem. While the tremendous sweep of Shakespearean blank verse, the prose-paragraphs on fire with their own poetry, the whispering gallery of metaphor, can scarcely be accorded proper respect in a prose commentary, certain rhapsodic effects are everywhere noted. Finally, the play is contained within a mystery. So much seems to happen; so little seems to happen. Almost all the major characters are subject to a pattern of error in their dealings as they are swept on from one catastrophic misjudgement to another. The level to which the play is focussed upon the blind time between events is unusually high. This too draws in the audience; it is a part of the spectator’s own internal experience. There can be no definitive answer to Hamlet or Hamlet. But like a signpost in a swarming mist, the third phrase may offer a faint clue: the invisible event.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-887-9
Paperback Price: £15.95 / $22.95
Release Date: October 2017
Page Extent / Format: 200 pp. / 216 x 138 mm
Illustrated: No



with Commentary and Cross-References to the Play after each Scene


Winter offers commentary on Shakespeare's Hamlet not so much to identify particular elements that readers might have missed as to alert them to the depth of understanding that the play permits. In order to help keep everyone on the same page for the scene-by-scene discussion, he provides a script of the play itself, mostly from the best known version in the Second Quarto (1604–5), but drawing occasionally from the First Quarto (1603) and the First Folio (1623).

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