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Inconsistency in Hamlet

William Shakespeare undoubtedly achieved one of his greatest characterizations when he created the role of Hamlet, in the tragic play Hamlet. Hamlet’s appeal to audiences almost certainly stems from his many human weaknesses. The one for which he is best known is indecisiveness, but his inconsistency may well be an even more outstanding characteristic.

T. S. Eliot, in 1932, wrote an essay on Hamlet that is still cited as a noted critique of Shakespeare’s great tragedy. Eliot argued that Hamlet is an artistic failure, due to a basic weakness in the play. It was his contention that a playwright owes a duty to the audience to write dialogue appropriate to characters as they have been developed in the drama. Eliot made the point that in the “Closet Scene,” when Hamlet confronts Queen Gertrude, his mother, in her bedchamber, his words demonstrate an animosity and a vindictiveness for which the audience is totally unprepared.

Since Eliot’s charge against Hamlet is self-evidently valid, actors and directors attempting to stage Shakespeare’s tragedy have struggled with the problem Eliot’s essay highlighted, both prior to and after its publication. The conventional approach in the 20th century has been to imply, on Hamlet’s part, a frustrated, incestuous love for his mother, which may justify the words Hamlet speaks, but for which Shakespeare gives no background whatsoever. As a result, rather than solving the problem, this approach creates yet another inconsistency. Still, in spite of these inconsistencies, and in spite of Eliot’s accusation of artistic failure, Hamlet continues to walk the stage and fascinate theatergoers.

If it is justifiable to look for logic and consistency in Hamlet, as Eliot did, one can find a far gre…

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… times illogical and inconsistent. All of these examples suggest, however, that the logic and consistency advocated by T. S. Eliot are not essential to a play’s success, nor to its greatness and immortality. Eliot’s conclusion that Hamlet is an artistic failure is based on logic even more specious than that of the indecisive Prince of Denmark. A play succeeds because of its ability to stir the feelings of the audience, to transport the members of that audience to places beyond the bounds of the theater and their daily lives.

Audiences, whether those of today or of Shakespeare’s era, do not judge a play by its logical perfection. Hamlet, with all of its inconsistencies, evaluated on the basis of its emotional power, the majesty of its language, and by its seemingly timeless ability to move and enthrall audiences, remains one of the theater’s ultimate masterpieces.

Reason and Religion in Fulgens and Lucres

Reason and Religion in Fulgens and Lucres

Seeing that the main purpose of college is to educate, perhaps the college administration might take a lesson from the 16th Century citizenry of England and host a fantastic dinner play in the fashion of Medwall’s famous, Fulgens and Lucres. This interlude, small in cast members but big on Humanism, demanded that each viewer take an active role in the performance; the play, though covering many morals and ideologies, focused on the everyday interaction between the two seemingly opposite poles of religion and reason. Though poising as mere dinner entertainment, Fulgens and Lucres served the goal of enlightening its audience toward the apex of the English Renaissance – the need to unite reason and religion within the life of each and every person.

Before one can ponder over the relationship between reason and religion, a person must first receive the proper education. As Sir Thomas Wyatt, Erasmus, and Sir Thomas More, the last being possibly an actor in this very play during his youth, claim throughout their works and letters, the key aspect to being a decent, contributing member of society rests in the pages of books, dwells within the classroom, and glitters on the lens of a telescope; knowledge undeniably holds the key to developing a logical, autonomous human being. In

his Book of the Governour, Wyatt developed his own theory as to the proper raising of a young boy so he could someday attain to reach a position in the royal court. Although, he ludicrously clamored for the importance of a nurse’s milk to the young infant and complete isolation from women during a boy’s studies, Wyatt declares, “a tutor should be provided,” (Wyatt 43) to the bo…

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… Medwall raises the antey up a notch though, and proclaims that reason without religion will serve no justice. Reason, when kept in check by religious beliefs, will, just like Lucres and Gayus, make for the perfect marriage and will guide the educated person down the path of enlightenment and true knowledge.

Works Cited and Consulted

Baskerville, Charles R. 1927. ‘Conventional Features of Medwall’s Fulgens and Lucres’. Modern Philology 24: 419-42.

Colley, J. S. 1975. ‘Fulgens and Lucres: Politics and Aesthetics’. Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 23: 322-30.

Jones, Robert C. 1971. ‘The Stage and the ‘Real’ World in Medwall’s Fulgens and Lucres’. Modern Language Quarterly 32: 131-42.

Medwall, Henry. 1926. Fulgens

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