Why is Shakespeare's play, "Hamlet" called the "Mona Lisa of Literature"?"Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With her enigmatic expression which seems both alluring and aloof, the Mona Lisa, marked by many as Leonardo da Vinci's most significant work has intrigued people for centuries.  Likewise, Hamlet, also marked by many as William Shakespeare's most significant play, has interested multitudes as an equally enigmatic character.

Like the Mona Lisa that has been repeatedly scrutinized, admired, copied, and parodied, Hamlet, too, has been analyzed and reanalyzed by critics and psychologists alike (e.g. Sigmund Freud contended that Hamlet had an Oedipus Complex); it has been copied and parodied, just as has the Mona Lisa.  Certainly, both are quintessential works in their genre.

archteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In popular culture, the Mona Lisa has come to represent the enigmatic.  People are always trying to figure out who the woman in the painting is, what he relationship to Da Vinci was, etc.  So the question is, how is Hamlet an enigma?  What questions do/might people have about the play?  Focus primarily on unresolved questions that people still debate.  What questions did your teacher ask you about Hamlet (the character) in class?  Which ones were tough to answer one way or the other?  I know there are unresolved questions about Hamlet's father's ghost...how might you use them to prove that the play is enigmatic?