William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1603)

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Further Reading

  • Van Oort, Richard. "Shakespeare and the Idea of the Modern." New Literary History. Special Issue: Critical Inquiries. 37.2 (Spring 2006): 273-284.
  • Abstract: Since the late eighteenth century, Shakespeare's plays—and above all Hamlet—have been regarded as indispensable proof texts for testing ideas of the emergence of the modern. In the postwar era, however, there has been a waning of this ambition. Most recently, for example, the new historicism has emphasized Shakespeare's ties to the past and in particular to the ritual culture of the medieval period. This turn to religion suggests a renewed interest in the anthropological underpinnings of Shakespeare's plays. It also suggests a new approach to the idea of the modern in literary history. By situating Shakespeare's plays in the context of an older ritual culture, the new historicism forces us to reflect more rigorously on the difference between aesthetic and sacred representations. More precisely, it encourages us to rethink this difference in terms of a minimal anthropology.