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Hamlet, the Melancholy One

Hamlet, the Melancholy One

Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet features the most famous protagonist in English literature – Hamlet. Inseparable from his character is the melancholy which permanently afflicted him. This essay concerns itself with this aspect of Hamlet.

Harry Levin explains the choices open to the melancholy hero in the General Introduction to The Riverside Shakespeare:

The explanation of Hamlet, “What a piece of work is a man!” (II.ii.303), carries an ironic reverberation. His melancholy gaze looks up and down: skyward toward “this brave o’erhanging firmament” and earthward toward the grave. Those two portraits which he shows to the Queen illustrate man’s potentialities for good and for evil. The scale ascends or descends with the spiritual and carnal aspects of his dual nature; he can aspire to be a godlike Hyperion or else can grovel like a brutal satyr. Hamlet’s existential dilemma echoes the self-interrogations of Montaigne, not merely through the language of John Florio’s translation but in its ambiguous balance between scepticism and faith.(8)

Hamlet’s melancholy did not prevent his choosing the more noble of the options available. But let’s begin at the start: It is obvious that from the very outset of this tragedy there is a melancholic protagonist. And the depressing aspect of the initial imagery of the drama tend to underline and reinforce Hamlet’s melancholy. Marchette Chute in “The Story Told in Hamlet” describes some of this imagery of the opening scene:

The story opens in the cold and dark of a winter night in Denmark, while the guard is being changed on the battlements of the royal castle of Elsinore. For two nights in succession, just as the bell strikes t…

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…Greenhaven Press, 1996. Excerpted from Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.

Rosenberg, Marvin. “Laertes: An 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 Press, 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.

Wilkie, Brian and James Hurt. “Shakespeare.” Literature of the Western World. Ed. Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1992.

The Men of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The Men of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, the reader is given a particular glimpse into Janie’s life with reference to the men she has known. Janie’s three men are all very different, yet they were all Janie’s husband at one point in her life. Although they all behaved differently, in lifestyle as well as their relationship with Janie, they all shared certain similarities.

Janie’s first husband was a poor old soul named Logan Killicks. He was an ugly, dirty farmer whose prime concern for Janie was that she do her share of the work in order to keep the farm up and running. Janie was simply another pair of hands to do some work. When compared with Janie’s second husband, Logan seems uncaring and rude.

When Janie first met her second husband, Joe, he was very caring and reassuring – an ideal husband. Joe was an ambitious young man with many goals set out for him. And like Janie, he was raised around a white background. Joe strived to be and have the best at everything. However, once Joe got Janie as his wife, he became a jealous and demanding man, just as Logan had been. Joe saw himself as a god, his sentences began with ” I god…” …

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…use he used it to help himself become mayor. Tea Cake loved Janie for who she was as a woman. All three had completely different things to offer Janie economically, socially, and emotionally. The two rich men loved a woman, the poor man loved Janie.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Perennial Classics, 1990.

Interpretations: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

Williams, Shirley Anne. Forward. Their Eyes Were Watching God. By Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Bantam-Dell, 1937. xv.

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