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Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi Preface and Acknowledgements xiii Note on the Text xvii Introduction Hamlet within Hamlet 1 1 Hamlet, Humanism, and Performing the Self 13 Humanism, Self-Knowledge, and Public Living 18 Moral Dislocation and the Unsettled Self 27 2 Hamlet, Hunting, and the Nature of Things 43 Establishing the Hunt 47 Pursuit 62 Commerce of Cunning 80 Transforming Saxo Grammaticus 92 Faking It: Huntsmen, Hypocrites, and Seeming Virtue 98 3 Hamlet as Historian 112 Rights of Memory and the History of the Danes 114 The Dozy Arithmetic of Memory 120 Memory, Reason, and the Eyes of the Mind 129 Remember Me 147 Memory, Recollection, and the ars memoriae 154 Metaphor and Misrepresentation 162 A Slave to What Memory? 169 4 Hamlet as Poet 174 A Passionate Speech 178 The Mirror Up to Nature 195 Foul Imaginations 205 Play-within-a-Play 214 Very Like a Poet 219 5 Hamlet as Philosopher 238 The Good, the Bad, and the Boethian 242 More Things in Heaven and Earth 253 Being, Nothingness, and Inconsequentiality 266 Dull Revenge 279 Rough-Hewn Providence 284 Conclusion Shakespearean Tragedy and the Death of Humanism 304 Appendix: How Old Is Hamlet? 315 Bibliography 325 Index 355

About the Author

Rhodri Lewis is professor of English literature and a fellow of St. Hugh's College at the University of Oxford. He is the author of Language, Mind, and Nature: Artificial Languages in England from Bacon to Locke and William Petty on the Order of Nature.


"One of Choice Reviews' Outstanding Academic Titles of 2018"

"Learned and lengthy . . . Lewis’s deeply researched monograph repays close attention."---Jonathan Bate, Times Literary Supplement

"Rhodri Lewis’s absorbing and original Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness is the first major reinterpretation of the play in some time. . . . Lewis’s brilliant analysis here gives fresh meaning to long-familiar if half-understood phrases."---James Shapiro, New York Review of Books

"Rhodri Lewis has taken one of the most studied plays of this and earlier centuries, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and turned on their head many of the grand notions we have all had about Shakespeare. Lewis's ideas are breathtakingly original."---Ian Lipke, Queensland Reviewers Collective

"A striking account . . . fresh and compelling."
*The Australian Book Review*

"Lewis has written a wonderful book: one that breaks free of the 'many confines, wards and dungeons' of the solely scholarly or academic. It’s a volume that all prospective producers of the play should examine assiduously."---Barry Gillard, The Australian

"Lewis does a great service to Hamlet scholarship. . . . Highly recommended."---Anthony DiMatteo, Choice

"Lewis uses his book as a broad canvas, tracking Shakespeare’s themes and characterizations across a huge number of discursive, visual, and historical examples, not only Ciceronian moral philosophy but also rhetoric and political writing, painting, the early English humanism of Erasmus and More, Philip Sidney, and too many Shakespearean examples to mention."---Henry Turner, Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900

"It made me look at the play and the character of Hamlet with fresh eyes, and showed me that modern productions of the play ignore or miss a lot of the play's true substance, even though it's right there in the text. Perhaps the main lesson I've learned here when it comes to Hamlet is: Look again – nothing is as it seems."---Pat Reid, Shakespeare Magazine

"A work of tremendous erudition, channeling a formidable range of classical and humanist texts as well as contemporary criticism into chapters on Hamlet’s sustained engagement with early modern discourses of selfhood, hunting, cognitive theory, poetics, and moral and speculative philosophy. With highly original but also extensively documented discussions of nearly every line and textual crux, it has the impact of a variorum."---Heather Hirschfeld, Modern Philology

"It is an original take on what must be the most written-about play in literary critical history, and the result is an erudite yet absorbing book that is as refreshingly unwilling to patronize the possibilities of Shakespeare's learning as it is willing to uphold the status of his creative genius."---Joe Jarrett, Journal of British Studies

"Extraordinary learning and critical insight. . . . Endlessly productive, exciting, and original."---David Bevington, Renaissance Quarterly

"A new and startling perspective on a familiar subject. . . . Lewis supports his ground-breaking theories with a critical approach that is both thorough and systematic. . . . His argument certainly convinced this reader."---Bríd Phillips, Parergon

"Page for page, this book offers more gripping textual insights than any other book on Hamlet since de Grazia’s. . . . The close readings are beautiful, interesting, and insightful."---Joshua R. Held, Sixteenth Century Journal

"Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness is an original and valuable addition to the critical field, and compelling reading for those interested in expanding their understanding of the intersection between early modern drama and contemporary moral philosophy."---Anna Hegland, Symbolism

"Bold and impressive. . . . Lewis deserves the gratitude of scholars for his sensitive close readings and contextualizations of those readings. . . . His book, no doubt, will encourage new debates about issues that were previously thought settled."---Benjamin V. Beier, Moreana

"The pleasure of reading this book comes not only from being constantly stimulated by the freshness of ideas and the acuity with which they are generated, and by the connections and associations that Lewis establishes, but also from the author’s display of the gift of bridging expansive micro-analysis of the play with compelling macro-analysis of ideas from moral philosophy that underlie the dramatic text."---Goran Stanivukovic, Renaissance and Reformation

"A major new interpretation of the play."---Vanessa Lim, The Year's Work in English Studies

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