Stay, Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine

Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster. Pantheon, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-307-90761-5
In this insightful interpretation, philosopher Critchley (The Faith of the Faithless) and psychoanalyst Webster (The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis) offer their take on Hamlet, using as touchstones the work of analysts such as Freud and Jacques Lacan, philosophers like Walter Benjamin and Nietzsche, and writers such as James Joyce, all of whom have written about the play. The authors discuss Hamlet’s bizarre obsession with his mother, his inability to kill Claudius, as well as the oppression caused by the near-constant spying on others, among other topics. Of the theories presented to explain Hamlet’s failure to avenge his father, the most interesting is Hegel’s suggestion that with his experience with death, he becomes disgusted with humanity, and no longer cares to engage in the world except in an absurd, punning way; “the wrong man” for the job, he dies as a result of his own hesitation and external circumstance. Ophelia’s situation is also explored; used by Hamlet, Polonius, Laertes, and Claudius and Gertrude as bait, “her desire explodes onto the stage” in her madness scene and in the description of her death. Whether singing of flowers and their reproductive cycles, or appearing in a pool “mermaid-like” and with a voice “heavy with ‘drink,’ ” Ophelia finally expresses the sexuality restrained and ignored by others. The authors’ passion for the play and its questions are clearly evident. Agent: Nemonie Craven, Jonathan Clowes Ltd. (U.K.). (June)
Reviewed on: 04/08/2013
Release date: 06/25/2013
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FORMATS
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-1-78168-256-2
Open Ebook - 166 pages - 978-0-307-90762-2
Paperback - 269 pages - 978-0-307-95048-2
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