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Monday, 05 February 2007

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It's a wonderful play, David, but the boy is a twerp, isn't he? An interesting twerp, of course, but an agonised, self-obsessed adolescent.

A little harsh, 'Dearieme'! He is young, certainly younger than most of the actors who play the role, but old enough to feel keenly the loss of an idol in his dead father and the adolescent revulsion of seeing his mother's all to obvious sexuality. He is, if you like, an archetype of all those disgruntled step-sons who so irritate their step-fathers in these days of easy divorce! But when the step-father is also an uncle, I think we can forgive some of Hamlet's angst. What is wonderful is the pinpoint accuracy of Shakespeare's psychology, 300-odd years before that old fraud, Freud!

Of course, you are right to say that he is self-obsessed but *unhappy* people usually are. Thus, Wilson Knight's point that Ophelia is his last chance of happiness must be right and Shakespeare deploys, yet again, his deepest irony in that it is her very Elizabethan-age *virtue* of obedience to her father that bolts the door to Hamlet's last chance saloon!

I can't agree that he is a twerp. To me, Laertes is the twerp, with what we would call today, his Sicilian or Balkan notions of instant, unthinking revenge. At least Hamlet *refuses* to act without proof. He acts in the very Baconian mode of testing his hypothesis first, even if, when the result is in, he then descends to Laertes's level.

Fascinating stuff, and what a privilege to have the chance at least to scratch the surface.

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