Peter B. Murray, Macalester College
In some influential post-structuralist commentary on Shakespeare's representation of character, Hamlet is regarded as psychologically incoherent, and humanist critics are said to project onto the inscription of this character the notions of inwardness and an essential self which were fully developed only in the century following the composition of the play.1 Francis Barker argues that Hamlet is unable to define the truth of his subjectivity directly and fully because his interiority is merely "gestural," so that at his center there is "nothing" (36-7; cf. Belsey, Subject 41). Contrary both to the views of the post-structuralists and to the view attributed to humanist critics, I will argue that Hamlet is not psychologically incoherent but has the divided and only partially self-aware and self-controlling subjectivity that in Shakespeare's time was said to characterize human beings. Hamlet is unable to define the truth of his subjectivity directly and fully because he has a complex interiority that makes self-knowledge difficult. Thus this character is himself able to think about how his thinking may be in error. After all, his own statements that his inaction is caused by cowardly thinking are the main source of the theory that he rationalizes to delay revenge (esp. 4.4.32-46; cf. Belsey's opposed view of how to interpret Hamlet's soliloquies, Subject 50, 52).