HAMLET an Artistic Failure
Hamlet-a great play by Shakespeare.The critical essay is written for M.A. English students and generally for literature ...
“HAMLET”--AN ARTISTIC FAILURE: T.S. Eliot In his essay entitled “Hamlet and his Problems” has written about Hamlet. So far from being Shakespeare’s mater-piece, the play is most certainly an artistic failure.” He has called the play the “Mona Lisa of Literature”, something puzzling and disquieting. According to him, there are many superfluous and inconsistent scenes in the play and as such it lacks the unity of action. Then, he says, in this play, workmanship and thought are in an’ unstable condition which is an artistic defect. These objections are based on T.S; Eliot’s much controversial idea of “objective correlative”. The defects in Hamlet arc the result of the absence of the objective correlative. He ‘believes that the only w of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an objective correlative, in other words a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular’ emotion, and which shall evoke the same emotion from the reader. In Eliot’s opinion, Hamlet is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible because it is in excess of the facts as they appear. Eliot’s objections can be answered easily. He is in the habit of expressing starting opinion and sometimes does not follow them himself. His idea of subjective correlative is vague as it falsifies the way a poet actually composes. No object or situation can in itself be a, formula for any emotion. No doubt, the play is puzzling as the problems of delay madness and ghosts have been subjects of much discussion. But it is also a fact that’ every poses of art poses a challenge and demands thinking. Eliot’s own poem “The Waste Land” has not been less puzzling. The objection that there are many superfluous scenes relates to the construction of plot. No doubt, there are many such scenes but they are interwoven thematically and as such nothing remains superfluous. In fact, if we have a deep study of the play and keep in view the delineation of the complex character of Hamlet, artistic construction of the play, consistent theme and the beautiful language used in the speeches, we are compelled to conclude that Hamlet is a master-piece of dramatic art.
Plot: As regards plot of the play, it has a definite form and obeys the laws of dramatic construction arid is regarded as a well constructed play. The action of the whole play falls into three movements, and has a beginning, middle and an end. The first movement exposes the crime and the culprit, the Polonius family is linked to the main action and it voices the secondary theme: “Frailty thy name is woman”. The second movement shows the development in Hamlet’s character and the enacting of the play to confirm Claudius’s guilt, and his two tragic errors---not killing Claudius, and killing Polonius, Hamlet who has to avenge his father’s death, becomes a victim of revenge by another son, for killing a father. The final movement brings the action to an end along with the death of Hamlet, Laertes, Claudius and Gertrude. So we see there is a gradual development in the progress of the plot Hamlet deteriorates in character as the progresses, but regains his lost balance of mind with an added strength at the end of the play before he dies.
Characterization: As regards characterization, the character of. Hamlet is the chief attraction of the play. Hamlet’s personality is as complex as an undetected murder. He is contrasted with obedient, prying Polonius, smiling but villainous Claudius, Sheepish Gertrude, poor, lovable Ophelia, faithful Horatio active Laertes and the strong minded brave Fortinbras The audience and the readers share his feelings. We laugh at Osric with him at, reprove Gertrude with him, curse with him Claudius, and speak friendly to Horatio with him. In him we have a speculative man “caught in ethical and metaphysical uncertainties.” He assumes madness as a device to give vent to his feelings but at times he seems truly mad. These contradictions add to the beauty of artistic quality rather than spoil it.
Thematic Coherence: Hamlet is much praised for its thematic coherence and structural unity. The main theme is revenge--- a son avenging the murder of his father. This theme depicts the character of the hero, the development or deterioration in his character, the success or failure in carrying out the work, and the means he adopts to achieve his aim Scenes like play within play, nunnery scene, Fortinbras incident, graveyard scene, which appear to be superfluous, become relevant through the theme of the play. 1
Beautiful Speeches: Then we have very beautiful speeches in this play Soliloquies of Hamlet, Claudius and Ophelia have been used as dramatic device to reveal the inner mind of a character. But they have a beauty of their own. The language used in them is terse, pithy and fluent. They are full of quotable lines and phrases like “to be or not to be”, “the undiscovered country”, “the unweeded garden”, “the native hue of resolution”, “bestial obliviousness”, “the glass of fashion and mold of form” To sum up, like other plays of Shakespeare, Hamlet may be criticized on some grounds such as the artificial role of chance, puzzling relationship of Horatio to Denmark, Hamlet’s age and many other loose ends But taken as whole, far from being an artistic failure, Hamlet is a well-constructed play which appeals to the imagination and intellect of the audience and reader alike.
Written&Composed By: Prof. A.R.Somroo M.A.English&Education. 0661-610063