Shakespeare's Hamlet - The Ambiguity Essay

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Hamlet – the Ambiguity

The extent of the ambiguity within William Shakespeare’s drama Hamlet deserves consideration. Literary critics disagree in their assessments of how prevalent the ambiguity is in the work.

Lawrence Danson in the essay “Tragic Alphabet” discusses the equivocation and ambiguity within the play:

Equivocation – the conflict between the reality Hamlet perceives and the language used to describe that reality – has made all expression a matter of mere seeming, and Hamlet knows not seems. His rejection of the Claudian language extends to a rejection of all the symbolic systems that can denote a man. Thus, even his own punning (both verbal and silent) is inadequate: Hamlet chooses “nothing”
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If I had to choose (what I feel under no compulsion whatever to do) between the two meanings proposed, I should unhesitatingly choose the former and usual meaning. (43)

Harold Bloom in the Introduction to Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet expounds on the ambiguity and mysterious conduct of the hero during the final act:

When Horatio responds that Claudius will hear shortly from, presumably that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been executed, Hamlet rather ambiguously [my italics] makes what might be read as a final vow of revenge:

It will be short. The interim is mine.

And a man’s life’s no more than to say “one.”

However this is to be interpreted, Hamlet forms no plot, and is content with a wise passivity, knowing that Claudius must act. Except for the scheme of Claudius and Laertes, we and the prince might be confronted by a kind of endless standoff. What seems clear is that the urgency of the earlier Hamlet has gone. Instead, a mysterious [my italics] and beautiful disinterestedness dominates this truer Hamlet, who compels a universal love precisely because he is beyond it, except for its exemplification by Horatio. (2)

The play

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