Book Review- Hamlet

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, is THE GREAT standard for virtually all Western literature. Inexhaustible in his scope, reach and impact, there are few other writings as important to read in the Western canon. When Prince Hamlet is commanded by his father’s ghost to seek revenge for his murder, Hamlet’s life is turned upside down. Already angry at his uncle for stealing the throne from him through his hasty marriage to the queen, Hamlet now sets out to expose and punish his uncle for his treachery. Yet, in his desire to have it all–expose, punish and damn his uncle, gain the throne for himself and win Ophelia–Hamlet makes rash decisions that cost him dearly. Through his monologues, the audience gains entrance into his heart and intentions and much of what we see in Hamlet is a reflection of ourselves–our doubts, our fears, our shrinking from conflict, our inability to decide, our desire to have what we want. In this way, as we come to understand Hamlet, we can come to better understand ourselves. Hamlet is also never wrong in his assessments of who others are. As we watch Hamlet’s keen perception in discerning the intentions of others we can learn to see the individuals in our lives more clearly. Countless themes, symbols, ideas, concepts and insights are available to us through this timeless classic. It’s simply our job to open it and read!

Principle: Revenge destroys lives.

Themes: intention; revenge; family; trust; reason vs. passion; leadership; self

Read with: A Doll’s House; Othello; Asmiov’s Guide to Shakespeare; How to Read and Why; The Iliad; Oedipus the King; Julius Caesar

Watch: “Hamlet” A Kenneth Branagh film; Shakespeare’s Hamlet; Gilligan’s Island “Hamlet”

Discussion Questions:
Which of Hamlet’s decisions were good and which were bad? Why?
Was the ghost a ghost of good intent or ill intent? Why is he the key to the play?
Why does Hamlet pretend to be insane? Does it help or hurt him?
What kind of person is Hamlet’s mother? What was she responsible for?
What can we learn about discerning others’ character?


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