Andrew Lanham on Stay, Illusion! : The Hamlet Doctrine
DURING A LONG, misogynistic, masochistic tirade early in his eponymous play, Hamlet accuses himself of being a coward who “Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words.” Hamlet overflows with words to describe himself — the play sometimes chokes on its own verbal excess — but after some 400 years of commentary and criticism, writers who want to analyze the Danish prince face the opposite problem: there’s only so much left to say. A chorus of great thinkers has confronted him already.
In Stay, Illusion!: The Hamlet Doctrine, husband and wife Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster turn this backlog of criticism to their advantage. In their kinetic, sometimes frenetic, always penetrating study, they examine Hamlet in the light of others’ illuminations. At the same time, they reflect on the nature of modern life by gleaning what Hamlet’s critics have revealed about themselves in their interpretations of the play. T. S. Eliot, after all, said critics only manage to see themselves when they look at Hamlet.