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In Hamlet, critics have tended to romanticize Hamlet, but Harold Bloom cautions "we...

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 1, 2008 at 4:08 PM via web

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In Hamlet, critics have tended to romanticize Hamlet, but Harold Bloom cautions "we have been all too ready to lose our apprehension of Hamlet's permanent strangeness." How do you interpret this argument for being cautious of Hamlet's character? 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 11, 2013 at 5:55 AM (Answer #1)

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Bloom's comment surrounding Hamlet's "permanent strangeness" perhaps relates to the way that critics have been all to ready in some cases to overlook the various questionable acts that Hamlet himself committed in his pursuit of revenge and the way that these prevent him being romanticised in such a glib way. Perhaps one of the most significant examples of this is the way that Hamlet merrily sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths without really needing to do so. In Act V scene 2, when he tells Horatio about it, he displays pride in the way that he has organised their deaths, and declares that his conscience is free:

Why, man, they did make love to this employment.

They are not near my conscience. Their defeat

Doth by their own insinuation grow.

Such a view completely ignores the reality of the position that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern found themselves in, trapped between loyalty to a friend and obedience to a monarch, and the way that they were not privy to how they were being manipulated by both Claudius and Hamlet. Other examples might include Hamlet's treatment of Ophelia. Such sections of the play prevent a romanticised view of Hamlet from being developed. There may be aspects of his character that are indeed romantic, but at the same time there is a sense in which his more unsavoury characteristics and deeds do indeed create a sense of "permanent strangeness" concerning his character that make him impossible to understand completely or to neatly pigeonhole. 

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