Hamlet: A Critical Reader. Edited by Neil Taylor and Ann Thompson.

Books  Yesterday whilst writing about Thompson and Taylor's introduction to the revised edition of their 2006 Arden Third Series publication of Hamlet, I noted how for the most part they ignored general literary criticism and focused instead on textual matters.  Here it is instead in Hamlet: A Critical Reader, an extension to that original work expanding on some of its themes and introducing others.

Part of a series which will notionally cover all of the plays, numerous authors tackle various, now standard elements of literary criticism, through chapters with largely self explanatory titles: The Critical Backstory, Performance History, The State of the Art (survey Hamlet lit crit in the past decade), New Directions: Hamlet and Gender, New Directions: Hamlet, Cinema, the World and New Directions: Being Hamlet Not Being Hamlet (a piece of original lit crit by Frank McGuinness).

Mostly allergic to literary criticism for recreational purposes, especially when it's simply restating other people's work on a particular topic for student research purposes rather than injecting something original, I nonetheless found the Lois Potter's performance history particularly valuable.  I'd not known previously that when Garrick toured his portrayal, he'd play the role against a backdrop of popular local players, which on one occasion led to him sharing billing with the star playing Osric.

Catherine Belsey's brief survey of feminism in Hamlet studies is also useful in recording the extent to which female actors have played the Danish prince both in English, abroad and on film, emphasising to varying degrees the potency of his femininity and the extent to which the text is rewritten to explain the change in gender.  We're yet to really see her played simply as a woman, Rosalind-style disguises or simply playing it as a "man" the general rule.

The book closes with a section listing resources, texts, websites, films and essays.  The Hamlet Weblog is not mentioned, which is probably for the best.  The film list is selective, mostly covering the more high profile entries, ignoring those starring Kevin Kline, Campbell Scott, Richard Burton and Christopher Plummer.  But I imagine if I was studying Hamlet at school or college this would act as a very good jumping off point.

Hamlet: A Critical Reader. Edited by Neil Taylor and Ann Thompson is published by Bloomsbury. 2016. ISBN: 978-1472571373. Review copy supplied.

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