Hamlet (Norton Critical Edition) Book reviews


Author(s): William ShakespeareDownload  


This revised Norton Critical Edition of one of the series’ most widely read texts is based on the second quarto (1604-05). Where necessary, the editor has also drawn from the folio text, recording all departures from the quarto in the Textual Notes. Punctuation and stage directions for the play have been refined, and textual annotations have been revised and expanded.
The “Intellectual Backgrounds” and “Extracts from the Sources” sections, both highly praised, remain as germane as ever. Intellectual Backgrounds includes important readings on melancholy, demonology, the nature of man, and death, including works by Peter de la Primaudaye, Timothy Bright, Lewes Lavater, G. Gifford, Michel de Montaigne, and Heironymous Cardanus. Extracts from the Sources provides pre-Shakespearean accounts of the story of Hamlet, reprinting substantial excerpts from Saxo Grammaticus’s Historia Danica and Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques. “Criticism” has been revised to accommodate the most significant recent interpretations of Hamlet while retaining the seminal essays of the First Edition. Twenty-three critical analyses are featured, including those by Samuel Johnson, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Hazlitt, A. C. Bradley, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, G. Wilson Knight, C. S. Lewis, Harry Levin, Peter J. Seng, Rebecca West, Arnold Kettle, Margaret W. Ferguson, Jacqueline Rose, and William Empson. An updated Selected Bibliography is also included.

Some Reviews: 12899 in Goodreads.com


Madeline rated it      

Hamlet, abridged:

GHOST/DAD: Hamlet, your uncle killed me and married your mom. I want vengeance, so best get to murdering, plzthnx.


OPHELIA: Hamlet, are you okay?

HAMLET: Get away from me, skankwhore!

OPHELIA: WTF? *goes from zero to crazy like that*

GERTRUDE: Kid, you need therapy.

HAMLET: And you need to be less of AN ADULTEROUS WHORE!

POLONIUS: OMG so rude!

HAMLET: Eavesdropping? I KEEL YOU!

*play goes on hold while Hamlet talks to skeletons*

LAERTES: You killed my dad and drove my sister to suicide, you jerk! I challenge you to a duel!


CLAUDIUS: MWAHAHAHA! I put poison in your goblet, Hamlet!

GERTRUDE: Yum, poisoned wine. *dies*

CLAUDIUS: Whoops, my bad.


GHOST/DAD: Wow, nice job son. Except for the part where you’re bleeding all over my castle.

HAMLET: Ah, dammit. *dies*

And then the even more abridged version:


The end.

Really, what’s not to love?

Read for: 12th grade AP English

BONUS (courtesy of Married to the Sea, a webcomic you should probably read on a regular basis):

BONUS BONUS: Speaking of Ophelia

Bill Kerwin

Bill Kerwin rated it      

I don’t have any earth-shattering insights to share from this most recent of god-knows-how-many readings, but this time through I was struck by:

1) what a damn fine piece of stagecraft this is, from the suspenseful, moody opening on the castle battlements to the solemn dead march carrying the prince offstage, and

2) how Shakespeare seems to want Hamlet’s personality–particularly the wellspring of his actions (and lack of action)–to remain an enigma, and that he achieves this by infusing the character with so much of himself–so much wit and poetry, so much despondency and savagery–that the result is that the audience simply bows before the great mystery of human personality, and that this reverence for the unknown lurking in the heart of an extraordinary man intensifies the sense of pity, horror and waste that fills us at the end of the play.


Lisa rated it      

I bought a skull as my only prop for Halloween dress-up, and I hope someone will recognise that I will be Hamlet. As spontaneous actions always need to be followed by bookish contemplation for full satisfaction, I am preparing for the event by rereading the whole play.

Somewhere in the middle I started laughing at Hamlet’s advice to Ophelia: “To the nunnery!” For who wants to end up a breeder of sinners? I rejoiced at the fact that fake news are as old as the rotten state of states in general, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern made my day, several times. I loved the play inside the play, and what it tells us of Shakespeare’s idea regarding the power of literature to move and affect people on the deepest level.

I quite coldly skim the overquoted “to be or not to be”, and stop cold at “Faith! Her privates we.”

Her privates we? Meaning the middle parts of fortune? I have Manning’s book at home, and I have been meaning to read it forever, and I didn’t have a clue that the title was a quote from Hamlet, and that it referred to female genitals.

I am not even at the point yet in the play where my skull makes an appearance, alas Yorick!, but I have already started a new book based on my rereading of Hamlet.

That is what happens to readers, – stories affect them, they react, and that reaction generates new action, followed by new stories, in eternity – a precious circle. That’s Hamlet. Hamlet is human in a rotten state. Who knows whether he is insane or not? I guess it depends on who you ask.

I am still feeling kind towards him. Ophelia’s fate is still in the future, as is the cathartic show effect of taking up the bodies to the stage.

When going to bed later, after finishing the last acts, Maestro Shakespeare may be out of my favour again.

But that is another story…


Jibran rated it      

It is only when I read and compare across languages that I realise what a hard and thankless job translation is, especially older texts and more so when there’s a significant cultural distance between languages. Shakespeare’s diction is so profoundly poetic and idiomatic that it might be thought untranslatable, even when it is rendered into modern English idiom, it loses its antique beauty when tampered with, like those monuments reconstructed from history that look like originals but actually are not.

And so reading Shakespeare in Urdu was always going to be a fascinating experience. I commend Firaq Gorakhpuri’s consummate skill in recreating Hamlet in an idiom that recalls the dying days of the classical dialect mixed in with sufficient modernist invention to keep it coherent, but without employing too many calques and direct borrowings which would have grated on my nerves. I also like that the translator did not depart from the prose-poetry form of the original.

All in all, this translation of Hamlet may go down as one of the finest examples of how to translate classical English literature, and not just Shakespeare, in a language that is fast losing translations from other cultures.

December ’16


Manny rated it      

Jesus Christ what a year no way could this get worse now they’re hacking away at each other with their swords and I’m supposed to look interested oh well done Hamlet despite everything he’s still my son that was a lovely feint pretty worried about Laertes though he looks so crazy first his dad and then his sister wish I could do something to help oh come on who am I kidding it’s Hamlet I’m worried about of course God what am I going to do that poor kid is totally fucked and he thinks it’s all my fault I told Claudius it wasn’t smart to hush up what happened to Kingy they’d only believe he’d done it was I right or was I right of course with the two of us carrying on it did look suspicious don’t blame people for jumping to conclusions I wish he hadn’t broken up with Ophelia she seemed like such a nice girl everything just got worse after that he was so mean to her takes after his father that way know how she felt there were moments I could have jumped in the river myself and then lecturing me on my sex life I couldn’t believe it honestly teenagers all think they’ve invented sex they can’t imagine anyone over twenty still does it I’m only thirty-six for crying out loud I’m in my sexual prime not that I was getting much before Claudius noticed me poor old Kingy completely hopeless in bed have to hand it to Claudius even if he is a bastard he’s the first man who’s ever given me an orgasm can’t imagine what Hamlet would say if I told him that bad enough as it is oh for Christ’s sake Laertes what do you think you’re doing that’s not a real sword you know sweet Mary mother of God I need a drink but if Claudius sees me he’ll start going on again about my alcohol consumption I’ll wait until his back is turned and grab a quick one before he notices right here’s my chance one glass won’t k—


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