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Hamlet [Norton Critical Edition] by William…

Hamlet [Norton Critical Edition] (1603)

by William Shakespeare

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    The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Elizabethan dramas featuring murder, ghosts, a character appearing mad with grief, and revenge plots taking advantage of a play within the plays

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Hamlet shouldn't need a synopsis, as most Western readers have been exposed to the story in some form or other. Although, honestly, people might be more familiar with some of its most memorable quotes rather than the actual plot. The story follows Hamlet, young prince of Denmark, as he struggles with his directive to avenge his father's death. His father's ghost is the one who compelled them to this dark job, revealing that his Uncle Claudius murdered him to take the throne and the queen. Hamlet currently despises his mother and uncle for their hasty marriage and curtailed grieving, but he is none too eager to commit revenge killing. As he feigns madness, or maybe truly indulges it, he drives the woman who loves him to desperate and terrible extremes, he accidentally stabs her father who is eavesdropping on him and his mother, and escapes Claudius's attempt on his own life by throwing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths in his place. In the end, Hamlet is not the initiator of Claudius's death, but merely thwarts the king's own elaborate plot to kill Hamlet, inadvertently taking out most of the people on the stage before he succumbs to the poison with which Laertes stabbed him.

This brief description leaves out many significant details, such as Ophelia's drowning and Laertes' own grief-stricken scheming, but again, the famous and canonical story is well known. Even more prevalent are the lines from some of Hamlet's soliloquies. People who don't know play at all probably recognize the beginning of his famous "to be or not to be" speech. The powerful language is one reason that Shakespeare's preeminent play is remembered and repeated all over the world, but the character of Hamlet himself is also the subject of much discussion. Is he paralyzed by hesitance, too sensitive to accept his brutal role, in love with his mother, or merely a carefully calculating genius? Thousands of critical responses have prompted just as many readings of the play and its namesake. A great reason to read this Norton Critical edition is the collection of critical material that occupies the second half of the book, after the play and its quality footnotes and introduction. This book also includes several reactions about Hamlet written by various actors who have played the character in the past. All of this collected critical information helps the reader dive into the many layers of a complex piece of literature and drama. I highly recommend Norton Critical editions for the serious reader.

The question still remains of whether I enjoyed the play. I did. Shakespeare was a master at incorporating his powerful characterization and language in a play that was packed with enough action and surprise to entertain even his least-discerning playgoers. I was drawn in by the intricate revenge story and the incredibly life-like characters, while at the same time appreciating the more subtle elements that underlay the events of the plot. This was actually my second read of the play. The first time I chose this book, I was in college and just quickly read through a library copy so I could say that I had read Hamlet. This time, I chose the Norton book, so I could slowly read the drama and take in its many interpretations. I greatly appreciated the matter at the end for allowing me to delve deeper into the play and some of the world of criticism that has grown around it. I certainly feel as if adding this book to my reading history strengthens my understanding of literature. ( )
  nmhale | Jan 10, 2016 |
Hamlet finds out from the ghost of his father that his uncle was his father's murderer, and must seek revenge. It was good to finally read this play after hearing so much about it. I didn't understand some parts but on the whole very entertaining! ( )
  Amzzz | Sep 23, 2007 |
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Do Not Combine: This is a "Norton Critical Edition", it is a unique work with significant added material, including essays and background materials. Do not combine with other editions of the work. Please maintain the phrase "Norton Critical Edition" in the Canonical Title and Publisher Series fields.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393956636, Paperback)

This revised Norton Critical Edition of one of the series' most widely read texts is based on the second quarto (1604-05). Where necessary, the editor has also drawn from the folio text, recording all departures from the quarto in the Textual Notes. Punctuation and stage directions for the play have been refined, and textual annotations have been revised and expanded.

The "Intellectual Backgrounds" and "Extracts from the Sources" sections, both highly praised, remain as germane as ever. Intellectual Backgrounds includes important readings on melancholy, demonology, the nature of man, and death, including works by Peter de la Primaudaye, Timothy Bright, Lewes Lavater, G. Gifford, Michel de Montaigne, and Heironymous Cardanus. Extracts from the Sources provides pre-Shakespearean accounts of the story of Hamlet, reprinting substantial excerpts from Saxo Grammaticus's Historia Danica and Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques.

"Criticism" has been revised to accommodate the most significant recent interpretations of Hamlet while retaining the seminal essays of the First Edition. Twenty-three critical analyses are featured, including those by Samuel Johnson, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Hazlitt, A. C. Bradley, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, G. Wilson Knight, C. S. Lewis, Harry Levin, Peter J. Seng, Rebecca West, Arnold Kettle, Margaret W. Ferguson, Jacqueline Rose, and William Empson.

An updated Selected Bibliography is also included.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:48 -0400)

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