Minor Problems and Points of Discussion


1. (From Patrick Cruttwell, "The Morality of Hamlet")

...Was Hamlet a good man or was he a bad one? How do we take his madness-feigned or real, or, if mixed, mixed in what proportions? And how do we take the obligation of revenge laid on him by the ghost-as a true moral duty, recognised as such by the price himself and to be accepted as such by us, or as a temptation to wrong doing?...If then we accept, as I have argued we must, Shakespeare's acceptance in Hamlet of the ethic of revenge, we must accept also that the man who follows this ethic with courage and responsibility cannot be doing wrong, whatever mistakes or inevitable damage to others may befall him on the way.

2. (From Patrick Cruttwell, "The Morality of Hamlet")

..."It is the whole life of action violence, intrigue, and public duty that he is reluctant to enter; he would rather be in Wittenberg, with his books. What he really is, is a conscript in a war. He has done things, as we all do in wars, he would rather not have done; but he believes it to be a just war, and all in all, he has borne himself well. That this was how Shakespeare saw it, the ending of the play convinces me; for why else should

The soldiers' music and the rite of war

Speak loudly for him?

3.(From George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah)

..."When he finds he cannot kill in cold blood he can only ask,'Am I a coward?' When he cannot nerve himself to recover his throne he can account for it only by saying, 'I lack ambition'. Had Shakespeare plumbed his play to the bottom he would hardly have allowed Hamlet to send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their death by a forged death warrant without a moment's scruple."

4.(Source unknown)

..."If we want to know how Shakespeare and his audience conceived of real insanity, we can turn to Titus, Lear, and Ophelia. Each of them loses touch with reality. And even better test is provide by Edgar. Since Edgar completely submerges his own identity in order to counterfeit madness, his actions are good evidence of how Shakespeare's audience expected a real madman to behave."


1. Summarize in your own words the argument in each of the above quotations.

2. Choose one of the above quotations that you agree or disagree with and explain why you agree or disagree.

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