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Word Count: 1,516
In some ways all men and a few actresses want to be Hamlet He is intelligent and funny he knows how to value true friendship Horatio how to tease sycophantic phonies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern how to treat pompous political authority Polonius Yet there are problems He is glib and unconvincing in his fifth-act apology to Laertes and both confused and cruel in all of his encounters with women My reasons for not wanting to be Hamlet however turn out to be theological Someone wisely remarked that every fresh critic who sets out to define the intentions of the author of Hamlet ends up in his own particular dead-end in queer street2 This is just what happened to me Years ago I wrote an earnest but tedious theological interpretation of Hamlet defining confidently the theological significance of everything that was in the text and of a great deal that was not ghosts Hamlet as Wittenberg Protestant3 sullied flesh suicide sleep kings at prayer fifth-act conversions to providence4 I ended up with a not altogether virtuous Hamlet prone to violence and at the end confusing himself with God That old essay had a curious performance history In the mid-1960s a close friend was cast as Hamlet in a production at the summer Shakespeare festival in Stratford Connecticut He decided to use my essay to shape his reading stressing the darkness of the prince The egregious Maurice Evans was the festivals artistic director and when he saw what my friend was up to he fired him But my old essay was not altogether wrong I am still convinced that there is a shadow side to Hamlet and that it is related to his temptation to confuse himself with God He is after all an exceptionally callous murderer impetuous with Polonius 34213 4317ff calculating with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern 5246-47 585 He twice rejoices at the idea of killing men who have not made their peace with God 3373ff 5247
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