These articles are singled out not only for their intriguing content, but also for their invigorating style—all of which contribute to enjoyable reads. Rather than privately compliment and congratulate the authors, I publicly thank them. Their work rejuvenates my motivation to pursue my own projects with Hamlet, literary studies, and writing.

Greenblatt, Stephen. “Remember Me.” Hamlet in Purgatory. By Greenblatt. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001. 205-57.

GHOST / NEW HISTORICISM / PERFORMANCE / THEOLOGICAL

While continuing the monograph’s historical exploration of “the afterlife of Purgatory” and of remembrance of the dead in England (3), this chapter begins by examining Hamlet’s “shift of spectral obligation from vengeance to remembrance” (207) and by analyzing how Shakespeare “weirdly and unexpectedly conjoins memory as haunting with its opposite, the fading of remembrance” (218). It then approaches the core argument of the monograph: “the psychological in Shakespeare’s tragedy is constructed almost entirely out of the theological, and specifically out of the issue of remembrance that . . . lay at the heart of the crucial early-sixteenth-century debate about Purgatory” (229). Although “the Church of England had explicitly rejected the Roman Catholic conception of Purgatory and the practices that had been developed around it” in 1563 (235), the Elizabethan theater circumvented the resulting censorship by representing Purgatory “as a sly jest, a confidence trick, a mistake . . . But it could not be represented as a frightening reality. Hamlet comes closer to doing so than any other play of this period” (236). Through “a network of allusions” to Purgatory (e.g., “for a certain term [1.5.10], “burned and purged” [1.5.13], “Yes, by Saint Patrick” [1.5.136], “hic et ubique” [1.5.156]) as well as Hamlet’s attention to (and brooding upon) the Ghost’s residence/source (236-37), the play presents a frightening-yet-absolving alternative to Hell. The play also seems “a deliberate forcing together of radically incompatible accounts of almost everything that matters in Hamlet,” such as Catholic versus Protestant tenets regarding the body and rituals (240). The prevalent distribution of printed religious arguments heightens the possibility that “these works are sources for Shakespeare’s play”: “they stage an ontological argument about spectrality and remembrance, a momentous public debate, that unsettled the institutional moorings of a crucial body of imaginative materials and therefore made them available for theatrical appropriation” (249). For example, Foxe’s comedic derision of More’s theological stance “helped make Shakespeare’s tragedy possible. It did so by participating in a violent ideological struggle that turned negotiations with the dead from an institutional process governed by the church to a poetic process governed by guilt, projection, and imagination” (252). “The Protestant attack on ‘the middle state of souls’ . . . did not destroy the longings and fears that Catholic doctrine had focused and exploited”; instead, “the space of Purgatory becomes the space of the stage where old Hamlet’s Ghost is doomed for a certain term to walk the night” (256-57).

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Jenkins, Ronald Bradford. “The Case Against the King: The Family of Ophelia vs. His Majesty King Claudius of Denmark.” Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 17.3-4 (Aug. 1996): 206-18.

CLAUDIUS / LAW / OPHELIA / OPHELIA'S MURDER(ER)

Narrated by the attorney representing Ophelia’s family, this essay presents the jurors (a.k.a. readers) with evidence that King Claudius seduced, impregnated, and murdered Ophelia. First, the prosecution establishes the King’s character for the court: Claudius is capable of murdering his brother, of plotting to kill his nephew/son-in-law, and of seducing his sister-in-law/wife. Although Ophelia is praised by several respected “character witnesses” (e.g., Campbell, Vischer, Coleridge, Johnson, Hazlitt, Jameson) (208), evidence emerges that Ophelia was not a chaste virgin. For example, Polonius and Laertes feel the need to warn Ophelia about protecting her chastity, and, in response to their cautions, “Her lack of indignation is puzzling” (209). According to the prosecution, Ophelia’s lack of chastity leads to her impregnation by Claudius. Hamlet and Gertrude learn about the scandalous pregnancy, and both shun the young girl. But Ophelia and her unborn child pose threats to the throne. Adopting the disguise of madness (like Hamlet), Ophelia uses sing-song ramblings and symbolic flowers to accuse her seducer. Claudius responds by ordering two men to follow her, and then she suddenly drowns, “accidentally.” Aside from the Queen’s enthusiasm to report the death of her rival, the description of events reveals that Ophelia’s garland was another attempt to accuse Claudius with symbolic flowers; also, the cumbersome clothes that drown Ophelia seem out of place for the warm season but appropriate for the concealment of her pregnancy. Aware of the unborn child, the church grudgingly provides a grave-side service for the unwed mother. In closing arguments, the attorney articulates Claudius’ motives for murdering Ophelia and “begs simply that justice be done” (218).

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Stanton, Kay. “Hamlet’s Whores.” New Essays on Hamlet. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and John Manning. Hamlet Collection 1. New York: AMS, 1994. 167-88.

FEMINISM / GERTRUDE / HAMLET / LAERTES / OPHELIA

This interpretation explores all the variations of whore-dom in Hamlet. The women are not the only ones prostituted. Like Ophelia, Hamlet is “‘whored’ by the father”: “The older generation incestuously prostitutes the innocence of the younger” (169). Further examples include Polonius prostituting Laertes and Reynaldo with plans of spying and Claudius, the “symbolic father,” similarly misusing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (169). But the victims are not entirely innocent either. Hamlet “whores” the theater and its actors—“his great love”—by perverting artistic purpose and integrity (173), and the play-within-the-play “whores him as he has whored it, making him no longer one of the innocent, but one of the ‘guilty creatures’ at and in the play” (185). Laertes misuses his favorite pastime, fencing, to destroy his perceived enemy (180). The duel, “a gruesome perversion of the sex act” complete with phalluses and pudendum (181), leaves a dying Hamlet to whore Horatio, Fortinbras to whore Hamlet’s story, and a new “bawd” to reestablish the patriarchy (182). Because these males insist on a binary opposition between genders, ever fearing womanly characteristics within themselves, they project their “whorishness” onto female targets, covering over masculine violence (178). The closet scene exemplifies this technique: after Hamlet murders Polonius, Gertrude’s “supposed sin is made to overshadow his actual sin and somehow to justify it” (179). Only in death does Ophelia escape the whore image, but she becomes the “worshipped Madonna as Hamlet and Laertes can then safely whore their own self-constructed images of pure love for her as rationale for violence against each other” (179). The whoring consumes the play, as Hamlet “‘whores’ Hamlet the prince to be the organ for its art” (183).

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Contact the author at h.blankenship@hamlethaven.com