Anderson, Mary. “Hamlet: The Dialect Between Eye and Ear.” Renaissance and Reformation 27 (1991): 299-313.


This article analyzes Hamlet to discern Shakespeare’s “comparison between the eye and the ear as the two faculties by which sense data are transmitted to the reason” (299). A collaboration of the two senses must exist for the success of reason because, alone, the ear is prone to “malignant” information and the eye suffers “incomplete or ineffectual” information (302). For example, Hamlet mistakenly assumes that Claudius is at prayer based on only sight (similar to a dumb show) and accidentally kills Polonius based solely on sound. In comparison, the simultaneous use of ear and eye in The Mousetrap allows Hamlet to successfully confirm Claudius’ guilt. Various models of the eye/ear relationship emerge in the development of Polonius, Gertrude, Ophelia, and Fortinbras. In Hamlet, Shakespeare appears to defend “the theatre as a very effective moral medium which stimulates both eye and ear into a dialectic within the reason and conscience” (311).

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Readings, Bill. “Hamlet’s Thing.” New Essays on Hamlet. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and John Manning. Hamlet Collection 1. New York: AMS, 1994. 47-65.


By “tracing the folds of the eye and the ear in the text and asking how they relate to the unfolding of the drama,” this article hopes “to throw some critical light upon the enigma of Hamlet as a play caught between the lure of visual representation and the grip of (the obligation to) the heard command of the Father” (47). An example of the disjunction between the eye and ear occurs in the closet scene, when the unseen Polonius is heard and then killed. But the Ghost epitomizes the trouble. It is seen but not heard by Horatio and the other men in the first scene, and it is not seen by the Queen in the closet scene but is heard vicariously through her son. Only Hamlet experiences the Ghost through the eye and the ear, but he fixates on the visual representation, perhaps because the Ghost cannot “tell of everything” (1.5.13-20). So instead of Hamlet’s ear receiving the full command (and his thus being impelled to action), Hamlet attempts to translate the audible into the visual. Hence, after the initial encounter with the Ghost, Hamlet sits down to write in his book: he attempts “to reduce the heard command into something for the eye” (55). The Mousetrap, with its dumbshow and unfinished/interrupted dialogue, is another effort “to bring the Ghost’s command to visual representation” (57). But any transition between the ear and the eye creates a pause, a delay, a period of inactivity. Hamlet errs “in seeking to unify a heard command and a visual representation” (63). Critics who believe that Horatio’s version of events will somehow succeed in this unification are inevitably disappointed.

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Zamir, Tzachi. “Doing Nothing.” Mosaic 35.3 (Sept. 2002): 167-82.


“While several investigations into the philosophy-literature relations have ultimately located literature’s irreducible gains in terms of cognitive experiences [. . .] such results have to be further analyzed into particularized contexts in which a specific claim having a well-defined logical status is related to an experiential pattern”; hence, this reading “attempts this in relation to undisclosable aspects of the ‘self’” (169). It begins by examining “the way through which audal imagery underlies the play’s presentation of personal disclosure, insulation, penetration, and genuine communication, with its presentation of an unmotivated suspension between resolution and action” (171). Rather than “trying to solve the problem of Hamlet’s delay,” the goal is “to perceive what is being achieved by making delay a problem” (171). “By creating an experience that complicates the move from resolution to action, the play sets in motion a fascinating parallelism between the fictional occurrences that it depicts and real response”; “since a repeated response to this play is the attempt to remotivate Hamlet’s procrastination instead of seeing unjustified inaction as the aspect to be explained, we can isolate a play/audience relationship that frustrates certain explanatory dispositions” (179). “The strength of this work is that the attentive reader is not only told something about the limitations of contact but also made to experience them” (180).

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All information Copyright © 2002-2007 Harmonie Blankenship
Contact the author at h.blankenship@hamlethaven.com