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The World of Hamlet - Essay Example

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The World of Hamlet

The imaginary world, the play's world, is thus a self-contained world in which everything is as it should be. That said, he finds this play to be the most elusive of all of Shakespeare's work. He paraphrases a Mr. E.M. W. Tillyard, stating that,
No one is likely to accept another man's reading of Hamlet, that anyone who tries to throw light on one part of the play usually throws the rest into deeper shadow, and that what I have to say leaves out many problems-to mention only one, the knotty problem of the text (Mack, 1952: 87).
The purpose of this essay is to determine whether Mack's assertion that three attributes of the play are, in fact, reasonable foundations for determining the popularity and the endurance of this play. To this end, this essay will examine the three attributes posited by Mack and argue that these attributes are indeed aspects of the imaginary world which do explain the power and the depth of the play.
The first attribute refers to the mysteriousness of Hamlet's imaginary world. Mysteriousness, as Mack sees it, has long been an element associated with unique artistic endeavors. In Hamlet, this mysteriousness is manifest in many ways and pervades the text of the play rather than functioning as a sporadic or fleeting element. Mack cites the nature of Hamlet's madness, the ghost, his behavior toward Ophelia and Polonius, his clothing, and the manner in which his madness affects the other characters. There is, in effect, an extreme element of unpredictability which serves to fascinate rather than to discourage the reader of the play. This mysteriousness is engaging rather than unacceptable, and it functions to pull the reader into Hamlet's world. The lack of logic, the riddles, and the unexpected reactions and twists cannot be questioned in this imaginary world; quite the contrary, they function to unite the characters and the events more persuasively than if logic and reason had prevailed. Mysteriousness, in short, is certainly one reasonable explanation for the emotion which the play generates.
The second attribute refers to the tension between realties and appearances in the play. There is a problem which arises in the play in terms of distinguishing reality from appearances. This element of the play exacerbates rather than constrains the mysteriousness of the play. The ghost, for instance, is symbolic of this second type of attribute. The ghost is, in Mack's words, a "vehicle of truth" and yet its motivations and true form is uncertain. Realities spill forth from an apparition which itself is suspect. The reader of the play is thus confronted with more mysteriousness. Moreover, there is a constant second-guessing as to the real substance of the characters. What, for example, do Polonius and Ophelia truly desire Claudius repents. The King desires salvation. Much of what is learned is learned indirectly. Words are overheard and people are hidden. There is a sense that what is hidden is real and what is apparent is mere appearance. The language employed by the characters is deceptive and sincere. There are real questions as to what is the truth of many matters. What is the truth of Ophelia What is the true nature of the apparition and do his words convey reality or something less This second attribute, the layers of realities and appearances which are interwoven so seamlessly, certainly reflect this imaginary wo ...Show more

Summary

In his essay, The World of Hamlet, Maynard Mack is careful to qualify the nature of the world to which he is referring. He is referring to an artist's conception. More specifically, he is referring to the imaginary world created by William Shakespeare. The world is imbued of its own nuances and particularities…
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The World of Hamlet essay example
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