I’ve read Hamlet for my rhetorical theory class, and it’s been a very difficult piece to understand.
It must have been mostly the language and word choice, but I was almost unable to picture the scenes in my mind. This was stressful for me because I truly enjoy imagining scenes as I read, so that I am transported into the action. The class I read it for, is essentially a class that discusses literary criticism’s origins and then asks the student to read up on and apply one of the schools of literary criticism to two works: Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Joyce’s The Dead.
I’ve read Shakespeare before, and attended at least two plays (open air and all, just lovely), however, I’m not familiar with Joyce with the exception of his works being on the Catholic “index” of forbidden books back in the day. I don’t think I visited with Hamlet during my senior year in high school, though we did Chaucer, Shakespeare’s McBeth, and Beowulf. That was my all-time favorite English class. Ever.
I may also have set myself too high a goal in choosing to apply the psychoanalytic school of criticism to Hamlet for my 5-page assignment. Though I felt it would be easy because we were to read the background essay/description on the school of criticism of our choice from the back portion of our Hamlet text, and then further read the essay from the subject matter expert within that school, also in the back section of our text. We were then to apply our little grey cells to a 5-page document about what we captured and felt as we reading these two essays and Hamlet.
The choice of the psychoanalytic school of criticism afforded me the pleasure of learning something new about psychology, one of my favorite areas to read up on. Well, alas, psychoanalysis had been discussed in one of my other classes briefly, and the professor was of the opinion it was hogwash and that the practitioners were too exclusivist a group of people. I was a little dismayed while I read the critical essay at seeing the sole focus on the sexual development stages and repression, and how sexually deviant the mother was (!) in Hamlet. I felt a study of the sexuality of Hamlet would have been beneficial (he just hangs out w Horatio and hates his mother) and a study of the motivation and gains behind the stepfather’s actions would have been REALLY interesting (he kept trying to outdo his brother!).
I certainly couldn’t live with the psychoanalyst explanation of Hamlet…I need a far more “360 degree” view of people’s motivation. But it was fun, challenging, hard, and I loved it.