What allusion has Eliot made to Shakespeare's Hamlet in the poem The Waste Land?

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lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Eliot makes a reference to Shakespeare's Hamlet at the end of the section called "A Game of Chess". This part of the poem reproduces a conversation between Lil, a prematurely-aged woman with a failing health still recovering from an abortion, and a nameless friend. Lil's husband is about to return from World War I and the woman is advised to give his returning husband a good time or he will cheat on her. Lil ironically thanks her friend and exits with Ophelia's words in Hamlet IV.v: "Good night ladies, good night. Sweet ladies good night, good night." These words are uttered after Ophelia suffers Hamlet's rejection and before her suicide by drowning. Thus, through the alliusion to Ophelia's tragic fate (and earlier in the section to that of the classics Dido and Philomela), the poem points to male guilt in modern unhappy relationships.

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The Waste Land

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