Hamlet and DH LawrenceSeeing Lady Chatterley's Lover this past weekend called to mind Lawrence's criticism on Hamlet, which almost made me burst out laughing, given Lawrence's own issues on...
Seeing Lady Chatterley's Lover this past weekend called to mind Lawrence's criticism on Hamlet, which almost made me burst out laughing, given Lawrence's own issues on women. But here is what Lawrence says: "I had always felt an aversion from Hamlet: a creeping, unclean thing he seems . . . . His nasty poking and sniffing at his mother, his setting traps for the King, his conceited perversion with Ophelia make him always intolerable. The character is repulsive in its conception, based on self-dislike and a spirit of disintegration. . . . The whole drama is the tragedy of the convulsed reaction of the mind from the flesh, of the spirit from the self, the reaction (and this is the part I really love) from the great aristocratic to the great democratic principle." Lawrence then goes on to compare Hamlet to Orestes ("The whole Greek life was based on the supremacy of the self, and the self was always male...."). The short version of his criticism is that Lawrence wants to celebrate the pagan world which the Renaissance (embodied in Hamlet) brought to a close--a pagan world where the male self is supreme. Any takers on this? The quotations come from the Norton Critical Edition of Hamlet (175-180).
I don't know. Though of course this was the Age of Elizabeth, whether the male self was supreme or not seems to me to be not a question particularly troubling Renaissance men (or most men of any era, save perhaps the last 50 or so years). They simply (or un-simply) were; was this really in question? I don't see the Renaissance, despite some gains for male-female relationships, as being the era that brought the sense e"male self" supremecy to a close, do you?
That Lawrence might want a world of all men doesn't seem particularly surprising, but I never thought Hamlet wanted a world devoid of women. Cheating women yes, but also cheating men. I think Hamlet, as Auden argues, experiences too much emotion (in regard to women and everything else) rather than too little or wanting to live a life both sexes.