24 Pages

Noble Deeds and the Secret Singularity: Hamlet and Phèdre

WithPaul Morrison

Harold Bloom’s celebration of the proleptic power of Shakespearean representation finds its most compelling example in the figure of Hamlet. Hamlet, who is something of a character in search of a different generic dispensation, resists the Aristotelian priorities, and thus anticipates, more or less avant la lettre, a novelistic or discursive mode of subjectivity, which the novel, in its turn, would be only too pleased to grant him. The perception of theatre as an inescapable or metaphysical mark of the human condition is indeed Hamlet’s, as his sense of being thereby debarred from participating in it. Hamlet the play dramatizes Hamlet’s theoretical pronouncements on drama, for example, as practical advice to travelling players, although the attitude dramatized is itself antidramatic, antitheatrical, at least given the context of Elizabethan theatrical practice.