Through Rose Colored Glasses: How the Victorian Age Shifted the Focus of Hamlet

19th century critic William Hazlitt praised Hamlet by saying that, "The whole play is an exact transcript of what might be supposed to have taken pace at the court of Denmark, at the remote period of the time fixed upon." (Hazlitt 164-169) Though it is clearly a testament to the realism of Shakespeare's tragedy, there is something strange and confusing in Hazlitt's analysis. To put it plainly, Hamlet is most definitely not a realistic play. Not only are the events conveyed in the drama fantastic, the dialogue that brings it to the reader is overdramatic and often metatheatrical. The stirring monologues delivered throughout the play are theatrical speeches rather than genuine dialogue. Frequent references to acting and theater, especially surrounding the presence of the players, serve to make the audience aware of the play instead of drawing them into it. The tragedy's villain oozes evil, murdering the king and marrying his queen in just two months. Even more unrealistic is the presence of the king's ghost, surely there weren't really any apparitions floating around the court at Denmark. Then why does Hazlitt make this statement? Though it is tempting to simply write him off as a bad critic, similar...

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