Category Archive '“Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness”'

14 Apr 2018

“Hamlet” — Really, A Book About Hunting

, , , , ,


Legend has it that the young William Shakespeare was caught poaching deer at Charlecote Park and was brought up and charged before Sir Thomas Lucy, the owner and local magistrate.

James Shapiro, in the New York Review of Books, explains that Rhodri Lewis’ Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness, Princeton, October 2017, serves up a new interpretation of Hamlet.

No Freudian obsession with Gertrude, no too-much-cerebration-leading-to-inaction, no Harold Bloom and “The Invention of the Human”, no Humanism, at all.

Hamlet, it turns out, is really all about hunting.

    Shakespeare repudiates two fundamental tenets of humanist culture. First, the core belief that history is a repository of wisdom from which human societies can and should learn…. Second, the conviction that the true value of human life could best be understood by a return ad fontes—to the origins of things, be they historical, textual, moral, poetic, philosophical, or religious (Protestant and Roman Catholic alike). For Shakespeare, this is a sham…. Like the past in general, origins are pliable—whatever the competing or complementary urges of appetite, honour, virtue, and expediency need them to be.

The fruitless search for absolutes by which to act or judge is doomed to failure: “Hamlet turns to moral philosophy, love, sexual desire, filial bonds, friendship, introversion, poetry, realpolitik, and religion in the search for meaning or fixity. In each case, it discovers nothing of significance.”

The absence of any moral certainties means that it’s a “kill or be killed” world, and the most impressive chapter in Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness establishes how the language of predation saturates the play. Lewis’s brilliant analysis here gives fresh meaning to long-familiar if half-understood phrases, including the “enseamed” marital bed, “Bait of falsehood,” “A cry of players,” “We coted them on the way,” “Start not so wildly,” “I am tame, sir,” “We’ll e’en to it like French falconers,” and “When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.” Thirty years ago this analysis might have been the basis of an important, if localized, study—but that sort of book could never find a major publisher today. Here, it becomes a clever way of establishing what for Lewis is the play’s bass line:

    Whatever an individual might strive to believe, he always and only exists as a participant in a form of hunting—one in which he, like everyone else, is both predator and prey.

Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted in the '“Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness”' Category.

















Feeds
Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark