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Ambiguity within Shakespeare’s Ambiguous Hamlet

Ambiguity within Hamlet

The Shakespearean tragic drama Hamlet, though recognized as an unexcelled classic of tragedy by many literary critics, is nevertheless ambiguous in various words and actions. This problematic dimension of the drama will be considered in this essay.

Howard Felperin, in his essay “O’erdoing Termagant,” expounds on the ambiguity within Hamlet’s directives to the plays (“O, it offends me to the soul . . .”):

Yet whether or not Hamlet’s account of the purpose of playing is also Shakespeare’’, the fact that it occupies a central place within the most theatrically self-conscious and complex of his plays makes it more problematic than is usually supposed, a text in certain respects ambiguous in its statement and inconsistent with the play that forms its context.

It is with the general statement of the function of drama that I am chiefly concerned here, both in its immediate application to Hamlet itself and in its wider implications for Shakespeare’s work as a whole. In Hamlet’s classic restatement of the commonplace – “to hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature” – the purpose of playing is twofold.[. . .] What Hamlet has done, in effect, is to conflate under the blanket phrase, “to hold the mirror up to nature,” two distinct notions of drama, each with a long tradition and each in some degree antagonistic to the other in aim and method. (100)

The conflict between the “moral” notion and the “lifelike” notion of drama is what makes the above statement by the protagonist so ambiguous. Other examples of ambiguity are found in this tragedy by the Bard of Avon. D.G. James says in “The New Doubt” that the Bard has the ambiguous habit of charging a word with several meanings a…

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… Impulsive but Earnest Young Aristocrat.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Masks of Hamlet. Newark, NJ: Univ. of Delaware P., 1992.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995.

West, Rebecca. “A Court and World Infected by the Disease of Corruption.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Court and the Castle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957.

Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “Hamlet: A Man Who Thinks Before He Acts.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar. N. p.: Pocket Books, 1958.

It’s Time for a Less Destructive Relationship with Earth

It’s Time for a Less Destructive Relationship with the Planet Earth

Humans have long looked to the sky and dreamed of space exploration and finding other planets in far-away galaxies that harbor life. Recently, in response to a growing recognition that resources are finite, some have considered distant planets viable supply stations when earthly resources run out. Supposedly, these foreign reserves will allow humans to maintain current, and even expanded, material standards. Despite these longings, energy and time constraints make large-scale intergalactic space travel something well beyond our life spans; it takes a huge amount of energy to get a space ship beyond the Earth’s gravitation field and the nearest livable planet is likely hundreds if not thousands of years away. Thus, pipe dreams aside, for all-intents-and-purposes we are stuck here on Earth and therefore entirely reliant on it (and the Sun’s radiation) for our energy, food, and materials. If we resign ourselves to the fact that we are bound to Earth for at least the next dozen generations, we might begin to recognize that we’d better give earthly matters our primary attention.

Once a decision has been made to stick to Earth, the challenge has just begun. Where do we start? Well, as a doctor might say to a patient, “let’s determine your health before we begin to seek remedies.” Getting a global sense of the health of the Earth and its inhabitants definitely requires a thoughtful, creative, and dynamic assessment. And albeit difficult to accomplish, such an assessment would necessarily bring many folks together from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and specialties. Not only would such an assessment require a commitment from many sectors of our society, but it woul…

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…sume and contaminate its natural resources. Through modernization, industrial growth, and short-sightedness over the past two hundred years, we have recklessly damaged the one ecological treasure that we rely on-the Earth itself. Unless our global societies can begin the process of healing the Earth’s ailments and forging a less destructive symbiotic relationship with the planet, we are destined to exterminate, not only most of the animals and plants on the planet, but, ourselves as well. Let’s continue to monitor our vulnerable planet and take precautions to prevent further denudation and illness.

Works Cited

“Draft Report on the Environment.” (DROE) (2003). EPA. Washington, D.C., 167 pp.

Earle, Sylvia. (2003) “Saving our living seas.” Conservation Frontiers. Spring, 4-8.

Vital Signs. (2000). Worldwatch Institute. New York: W.W. Norton

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