Past Event

Columbia Shakespeare Seminar: Richard Strier (University of Chicago) Happy Hamlet

November 8, 2019
5:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Columbia University Faculty House

Abstract: Hamlet is, of course, "the melancholy Dane," and his play is, of course, one of the world's great tragedies.  But there is a way in which emphasis on the first of these (supposed) facts can be seen to diminish some of the force of the second.  Hamlet is not the most painful of the "great" or "mature" Shakespearean tragedies, but it can be seen as the saddest of them.  Part of this sadness springs from the fact that Hamlet did nothing to initiate the tragic situation in which he finds himself.  But what intensifies this sadness, I will argue, is the sense the play gives us that there was an alternative life for Hamlet.  I will argue that Hamlet was not melancholic by nature; that he was happy in the period before the events that form the plot begin; and that there was every reason to suppose that such happiness would continue.  My view entails seeing the people that Hamlet was involved with, especially those in his own generation, in a basically positive light as well, so that his implied past interactions with them (along with some of his present ones) seem positive, and the destruction of all of them profoundly sad.



The event will be held in Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive. As usual, social hour will be from 5-6, dinner 6-7, and the talk 7-8:30. The cost for dinner, payable by check only, is $30.  When you RSVP please indicate whether or not you plan to come to dinner; please give 10 days advance notice.