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Metaphysics

Fendt, Gene. Is Hamlet a Religious Drama? An Essay on a Question in Kierkegaard. Marquette Studies in Philosophy 21. Milwaukee: Marquette UP, 1999.

HAMLET / MARXISM / METAPHYSICS / THEOLOGICAL

This monograph begins by surveying the different definitions of religious drama. Chapters two and three discuss the "scholarly cruxes" of Hamlet (e.g., Hamlet's delay) and evokes Aristotle and Aquinas to assist in comprehending "what a religious understanding of Hamlet might be" (16). Chapters four and five explore the contrast between Hamlet and Kierkegaard's and Taciturnus' writings on religious art, "examine the metaphysical and philosophical presuppositions of the ordinary understanding of religious drama as representations bearing on dogmatic truths," and "show how Kierkegaard's indirect communication seeks to avoid that philosophical problematic" (16). The last chapter uses Bataille's theories of religious economies to argue Hamlet's status as a religious drama.

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Levy, Eric P. “Universal Versus Particular: Hamlet and the Madness in Reason.” Exemplaria 14.1 (Spring 2002): 99-125.

METAPHYSICS / PSYCHOANALYTIC

This study contends that the play “dramatizes the strife or competition between two modes of thought: one explains the particular by reference to the universal(s) it exemplifies,” “principles that have absolute generality”; “the other apprehends the particular in terms of its incommunicable uniqueness,” or the “absolute singularity” (100-01). The article tests Aristotelian and Freudian schemas, while probing “the antagonism between the two modes of knowing operant in the play” (101). Unfortunately, the “[. . .] Freudian theory is no more capable of rescuing singularity from subsumption in the universal than is the Aristotelian-Thomist doctrine of reason,” as both “great intellectual systems [. . .] formulate the individual in terms of universals”—emphasizing “the magnitude of the problem. In this context, the power of Hamlet to express the human predicament on the epistemological level can be more completely appreciated. Perhaps nowhere else in literature are the plight of singularity and the function of pity more profoundly and movingly portrayed” (125).  
 

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Wright, Eugene P. “Hamlet: From Physics to Metaphysics.” Hamlet Studies 4 (1992): 19-31.

HAMLET / METAPHYSICS / PHILOSOPHICAL

This article analyzes Hamlet’s struggle with “the spiritual mystery of the nature of the cosmos, the nature of mankind, and mankind’s relationship with the cosmos” (20). Hamlet initially views the cosmos as a chaotic garden, but he discovers evidence of “moral order” in the grave yard (23). The unearthed skulls provide tangible evidence, showing “clearly that emphasis upon things physical [e.g., material gains, heroic deeds, death] is useless and insignificant” (24). His shift to metaphysical contemplation is “based upon his understanding of the physical” (25). Although not a product of distinct logic, the conclusion Hamlet comes to is that “indeed a moral order of the universe does exist and that he, and by implication all humans, must act in accordance with that order” (22). Ultimately, Hamlet “uses the best that mankind has, reason, to get at the answers” of challenging questions (28).

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Contact the author at h.blankenship@hamlethaven.com