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  You are in: Home > Literary Criticism > A Fresh Look at Shakespeare’s Hamlet  

A Fresh Look at Shakespeare’s Hamlet
The play’s the thing, A rhapsody of words, and The invisible event

J. D. Winter

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 this most-discussed of plays? It has become a hive of furious theorising, an anthill of scholarly research. J.D. Winter looks at the text afresh, seeing it as something to be viewed through a playgoer’s eyes: what is taking place on stage, and that only. 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 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. There is the question of the prince’s mental state, that so consumes other characters; there is the question of his procrastination, which he himself is desperate about. But the larger question, which in one shape or another has dogged critics down the ages, has to do with the drift of the action towards its culmination, including the way the mind of the audience (or reader) is taken on board. 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.

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Publication Details

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

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