10lectureHamlet

10lectureHamlet - Hamlet 1 Hamlet the introspective modern hero Lecture structure 1 Who is Hamlet 2 Significance of opening scene 1 Who is Hamlet

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Hamlet 1: Hamlet, the introspective, modern hero? Lecture structure: 1. Who is Hamlet? 2. Significance of opening scene. 1. Who is Hamlet? In Withnail and I (1987, dir. Bruce Robinson), Richard E Grant’s character is alone in rain, having just parted from his best friend. He speaks Hamlet’s lines from Act 2, scene 2, lines 261-76, beginning “I have of late . .. lost all my mirth”. In the film, these words become a soliloquy, spoken to Withnail by himself. They express his interior feelings, locating him as a solitary figure, dressed in melancholy black, and philosophising about death and man’s place in the universe. This is, I suggest, the modern idea about Hamlet. The character of Hamlet gets taken out of the play and he comes to stand for an alienated (usually male) youth, who is a tortured artist. However, in the play, the speech used in Withnail and I is actually not a soliloquy , but is addressed to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet’s friends from the University of Wittenberg. To a certain extent, here, Hamlet is adopting the persona of a student, and his philosophizing should, I think, be seen as part of his studies. It does not have to be played as solitary, tortured musing, but could be played as a performance to his companions. It is also a quasi-religious, philosophical debate on the nature of human life. Compare also: Charles R Cross’s book Heavier Than Heaven (Hyperion, 2002), about Kurt Cobain. Chapter 23 is called “Like Hamlet”. Cross writes: When Kurt sat down to compose his suicide note in the Excelsior Hotel, he thought about Shakespeare and the Prince of Denmark. Two months earlier, during his attempt to dry out at the Canyon Ranch, his doctor warned he had to choose whether to continue with his addiction . .. or get sober, and that his answer would determine his very existence. Kurt replied, “You mean, like Hamlet?” In his Rome [suicide] note, Kurt cited Shakespeare’s most famous character: “Dr. Baker says that, like Hamlet, I have to choose between life and death. I’m choosing death.” (Cross,
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This note was uploaded on 03/26/2010 for the course ENGLISH 162 taught by Professor Dubrow during the Spring '08 term at Wisconsin.

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10lectureHamlet - Hamlet 1 Hamlet the introspective modern hero Lecture structure 1 Who is Hamlet 2 Significance of opening scene 1 Who is Hamlet

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