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Mrs. Cook -- Hamlet Literary Criticism: Home

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The resources below are examples of criticism on a variety of themes in Hamlet. If you want to search for literary criticism on your own, the following databases will give you the best results: Note: to use JSTOR from home, be sure to use the "log in" link in the upper right corner of the homepage.

 

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Action v. Inaction

Thinking too much prevents Hamlet from taking action. 

Gender Roles and Relationships

Relationship between father and son, mother and son, love relationship, friendship.

General Sources -- Start here

The Power of the Theatre

The "play within the play," a mere fiction, shows the truth.

Madness v. Sanity

Hamlet pretends to be mad to carry out his plans more easily. "There's reason in his madness," Polonius says after talking to him. Hamlet's madness contrasts with Ophelia's madness that takes place later in the play.

Ambiguity of Hamlet's language

Hamlet uses metaphors, similes, puns and wordplay. His words often have a hidden meaning that goes beyond their apparent meaning.

Appearance v. Reality

What appears to be true doesn't correspond to reality, appearance doesn't often correspond to the real feelings of people. This theme is also connected to the sense of doubt and ambiguity typical of the 16th century, when the certainties of the past were disproved or modified.

Hamlet as the First Modern Hero

Like Hamlet, modern man is tormented by doubt, by a lack of religious or moral certainties, and by an inability to communicate.