Poison, Play, and Duel : A Study in Hamlet
First published in 1971, Poison, Play and Duel explores the dominant symbols of the language and action of Hamlet. The Ghost first reveals that Claudius murdered his brother by poison, and this act of poisoning is then dramatically presented before the King. The ultimate consequence of the 'poison in jest' performed by the actors is the poisoned 'play' with rapiers between Laertes and Hamlet. This representation of violence, and the vengeful response to violence, creates the moral and the psychological problems of Hamlet. Critics naturally question, and disagree about, the way that Hamlet plays his role in this play because the role of Hamlet is a theatrical device designed to bring all human actions into debate and question. It is hardly surprising that audiences have seen mirrored in Hamlet their own most fundamental and inescapable problems. Nigel Alexander shows how Shakespeare, like Raphael, Titian and other Renaissance artists, developed and adapted the imagery inherited from the Christian and classical past. The battle within the soul, the choice of life, the hunt of passion, the triple face of prudence and the dance of the graces are given dramatic habitation in Hamlet's soliloquies, in the inner-play and in the savage contrast of sexuality between Gertrude and Ophelia. This book will be of interest to students of literature, drama, psychology and philosophy.