Hamlet Critics’ Quotes

DEATH – Chris R Hassel Junior ‘Though Hamlet’s sadness has…to do with the “wicked speed” of his mother’s remarriage, his father’s death, his own death – all death – is unnaturally abhorrent to him’
FAMILY – Rebecca Smith ‘Gertrude’s apparent betrayal of his idealised Hyperion father, not the actual death, has given rise to Hamlet’s melancholy state’
LOYALTY – Reta A Terry: Hamlet… ‘is a man of honour, a noble man, and now that the vow is spoken he has no choice but to carry it through’
REVENGE – Catherine Belsey ‘the act of vengeance, in excess of justice, a repudiation of conscience, hellish in its mode of operation, seems to the revenger… an overriding imperative’
ACTION AND INACTION – Claude CH Williamson: Hamlet… ‘is a man too intellectual to be practical; he thinks too much and does too little’
MADNESS – Elaine Showalter: Ophelia dies… ‘deprived of thought, sexuality [and] language.’
MADNESS – Alexander W Crawford ‘there is much evidence in the play that Hamlet deliberately feigned fits of madness in order to confuse and disconcert the king and his attendants.’
THE COURT AND POLITICS – Joe Sutcliffe: The Danish court ‘fails to meet the necessary standards of honourable public life’
CORRUPTION AND DECAY – Stephen Barker “If the time is out of joint for Hamlet, it is not simply because of his father’s death but because of the chaos, the disorder implicit in Claudius’s regicide and usurpation.”
DEATH – Ewan Ferne Ewan Ferne”[Hamlet’s] choice to be, at a deeper level, represents a profound and confirmed preference for not being.”
FATE – Stephen Barker “Hamlet intuits that no grand Christian metanarrative of sin, guilt and redemption is to be found, but that he is a player in a kind of cosmic joke.”
LOYALTY – Amanda Mabillard Amanda Mabillard comments that “Horatio feels deeply; he loves Hamlet with all his heart.”
REVENGE – Ewan Ferne “Hamlet wages war against cliché. It turns its own established genre of revenge tragedy inside out…”
ACTION AND INACTION – Catherine Belsey “the question whether it is nobler to suffer in Christian patience or to take arms against secular injustice is not resolved…”
REVENGE – Glyn Austen “a tragic hero who knows action is required of him, but whose purpose is blunted by an inability to act.”
RELIGION (guilt, sin and redemption) – Stephen Barker “Despite the obsession throughout Hamlet with what happens to humans after death – a central Christian concern – by the end Hamlet no longer maintains any faith in an afterlife, let alone redemption or salvation.”
THE COURT AND POLITICS – Joe Sutcliffe: Claudius is presented as a “dissolute, gaudy king, with his nouveau riche duel, [who] presides over a shallow, grasping, materialistic culture where feudal patterns are sharply unravelling.”
ACTION AND INACTION – D.J. Snider “…Hamlet’s obstacle was chiefly in himself, that he could not for himself do the deed, though the most powerful impulsion from without was urging him forward.”
ACTION AND INACTION – Claude C.H. Williamson “There is an inner contradiction in Hamlet’s personality – that he sensitively shrinks from carrying out the revenge indicated by the Ghost, and yet will do all sorts of bloody deeds on his own account.”
WW Lawrence ‘the elder Hamlet appears as a reckless champion, risking his life and lands on personal valour, rather than as a careful guardian of his domain’