Stanton, Kay. “Hamlet’s
.” New Essays on
Hamlet. Ed. Mark Thornton
Burnett and John Manning. Hamlet
Collection 1. New York:
AMS, 1994. 167-88.
Rosenberg, Marvin. The Masks
of Hamlet. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1992.
AUDIENCE RESPONSE / CLAUDIUS / GERTRUDE / GHOST / HAMLET
/ HORATIO / LAERTES / OPHELIA / PERFORMANCE / POLONIUS
Combining literary scholarship with interpretive performances,
this monograph promises "a way to listen to and grasp the complex
tones of Hamlet and the other characters" (x). Chapters follow
the chronological order of the play, pausing to "discuss the
important characters as they appear" (12). For example, the first
chapter explores the opening scene's setting and events, as well as
the variations staged in performances; the examination of this scene
is briefly suspended for chapters on Horatio and the Ghost but continues
in chapter four. This monograph clarifies dilemmas and indicates "the
choices that have been made by actors and critics," but its actor-readers
must decide for themselves (xi): "I believe this book will demonstrate
that each actor-reader of you who engages with Hamlet's polyphony
will uniquely experience the tones that fit your own polyphony"
[ top ]
Stanton, Kay. “Hamlet’s
Whores.” New Essays on Hamlet. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett
and John Manning. Hamlet Collection 1. New York: AMS, 1994.
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).
This website is for educational purposes.
All information Copyright © 2002-2007 Harmonie Blankenship
Contact the author at