William Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay examples

3616 Words 15 Pages
William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Shakespeare’s works are rife with metatheatrical self-references; as Polonius blathers on about madness early in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Gertrude ends the excessive bombast with the quip, “More matter with less art” (Hamlet, II.i.97). Shakespeare mocks his own poetic form and that of his classical influences with this line, yet his plays are full of lyricism. However, the Greek and Roman texts Shakespeare studied as a boy as well as those of his contemporaries are so full of “art,” (meaning that they emphasize form over content) that they are often considered by the masses as arcane. Shakespeare has improved upon his predecessors and emerges with a canon that is not only critically praised, but often
…show more content…
According to the introduction to Seneca’s Thyestes, the play “provided the model for later plays of revenge, such as Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, and has perhaps exerted a greater influence than Seneca’s other plays” (Duckworth 751). Kyd’s tragedy sparked a revival of this Senecan tragic model, including the original Hamlet, which is not extant, but is attributed to Kyd. Since Kyd’s version is said to have been written approximately 1547, Shakespeare must have been aware of it when he wrote is own version in 1600. Although the plot and textual comparisons among these previous works and Shakespeare’s Hamlet undoubtedly prove that Shakespeare was influenced by them, in each case, Shakespeare changes the way the action develops to better his text.


Shakespeare picks and chooses from past works to construct Hamlet. However, where each earlier play fails, Shakespeare makes a change that betters Hamlet. Aristotle, in The Poetics, names Oedipus Rex “the perfect tragedy” (Greenwald 35). The plot is “perfect” from a psychological standpoint because the hero confronts the three types of conflict: man versus man, man versus society, and man versus self, throughout the course of the play, and all the antagonists turn out to be him. Because of this unity, Oedipus Rex serves as a basis for all subsequent drama. Aristotle praises Oedipus Rex’s harmonic nature by saying, “The best form of recognition is

Related Documents