'Hamlet' without Hamlet sets out to counter the modern tradition of abstracting the character Hamlet from the play. For over two centuries, Hamlet has been valued as the icon of consciousness: but only by ignoring the hard fact of his dispossession. By admitting that premise, this book brings the play to life around man's relation to land, from graves to estate to empire. Key preoccupations are thereby released, including the gendered imperatives of genealogy, and man's elemental affinity to dust. As de Grazia demonstrates from the 400 years of Hamlet's afterlife, such features have disappeared into the vortex of an interiorized Hamlet, but they remain in the language of the play as well as in the earliest accounts of its production. Once reactivated, a very different Hamlet emerges, one whose thoughts and desires are thickly embedded in the worldly, and otherworldly, matters of the play: a Hamlet within Hamlet.
Margreta de Grazia is Joseph B. Glossberg Term Professor in the Humanities, Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
Preface: Hamlet without Hamlet; 1. Modern Hamlet; 2. 'Old Mole': the modern Telos and the return to dust; 3. Empires of world history; 4. Generation and degeneracy; 5. Doomsday and domain; 6. Hamlet's delay; Select bibliography.
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