By Dennis Abrams
As Publishing Perspectives’ examination of the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare, The Play’s The Thing, closes out 2012 with one of the Bard’s happiest of comedies, As You Like It, we’re already looking forward to our first play of 2013, which is his first great tragedy: Hamlet.
It is perhaps odd that one of the most groundbreaking works ever written is at the same time perhaps the best known play in all of English literature. As Harold Bloom points out, “It is a peculiarity of Shakespearean triumphalism that the most original literary work in Western literature, perhaps in the world’s literature, has now become so familiar that we seem to have read it before, even when we encounter it for the first time. Hamlet, as a character (or as a role, if you prefer), remains both as familiar, and as original, as his play.”
It is, no matter how you approach it (and in our reading we’re going to be approaching it from every conceivable angle and from as many perspectives as possible), a masterpiece, a sublime work of intellect and art. And yet, even though, as they say, “the play’s the thing,” it is Hamlet himself, the most compelling, fascinating, and yet ultimately unknowable of all Shakespeare’s creations, who has commanded the interest of readers and playgoers for more than four hundred years.
As the great Romantic critic William Hazlitt said of him, “Hamlet is a name: his speeches and sayings but the idle coinage of the poet’s brain. What then, are they not real? They are as real as our own thoughts. Their reality is in the reader’s mind. It is we who are Hamlet.”
What better way to begin your New Year’s reading then with an indisputed classic? I’ll begin posting introductory material on January 3rd; our group read will begin on January 7th.
Hope you’ll join us.
The reading takes place here:
Purchase your copy of the play here: