Hamlet: The Poem or the Play

E.A.M. Colman


If the title of this essay looks vaguely familiar, that is as it should be. It echoes, with deliberate distortion, the topic on which the late C. S. Lewis gave his British Academy Shakespeare Lecture in 1942, "Hamlet; The Prince or the Poem?" That lecture has been printed several times, and I would rate it as one of the best short essays on Hamlet that I have ever read. Following paths opened up by Wilson Knight, Caroline Spurgeon and others, Lewis began by debunking character criticism. If we were to account for the almost unrivalled hold tbat Hamlet bad bad on generations of readers and theatregoers, he argued, we had to concentrate on the whole dramatic poem, not just on the Prince.

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