Cover image for Looking for Hamlet
Looking for Hamlet

Hunt, Marvin W.
Personal Author:
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
Physical Description:
v, 230 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
Series Title:
Looking for Hamlet


Material Type
Item Barcode
Call Number
Book V00002096714 822.33 HUN

On Order



A mysterious, melancholic, brooding Hamlet has gripped and fascinated four hundred years' of readers, trying to "find" and know him as he searches for and avenges his father's name. Setting itself apart from the usual discussions about Hamlet, Hunt here demonstrates that Hamlet is much more than we take him to be. Much more than the sum of his parts--more than just tragic, sexy youth and more than just vain cruelty--Hamlet is a reflection of our own aspirations and neuroses. Looking for Hamlet investigates our many searches for Hamlet, from their origins in Danish mythology through the complex problems of early printed texts, through the centuries of shifting interpretations of the young prince to our own time when Hamlet is more compelling and perplexing than ever before. Hunt presents Hamlet as a sort of missing person, the idealized being inside oneself. This search for the missing Hamlet, Hunt argues, reveals a present absence readers pursue as a means of finding and identifying ourselves.

Author Notes

Marvin W. Hunt earned his Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1987. He has written widely in Tudor-Stuart literature including Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, and Shakespeare. A member of the Modern Language Association, the Shakespeare Association of America, and the Southeastern Renaissance Conference, Professor Hunt has been twice a fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. He has also written widely for popular audiences on subjects ranging from African-American history to baseball. For the past decade he has taught Shakespeare at North Carolina State University. His travel stories on The Bahamas and many book reviews have appeared in numerous publications, including The North Carolina Literary Review, The Atlanta Journal/Constitution, and The New York Times .

Reviews 3

Choice Review

Hunt (North Carolina State Univ.) undertakes the monumental task of laying out the whole study of Hamlet, from sources to postmodern theory, in some 200 pages. Inevitably, the resulting book is a survey rather than an in-depth study, and it must be judged by that standard, by which it succeeds very well indeed, although it has some weaknesses. Notably, the author offers little discussion of performance, especially of film, and his treatment of editing requires significant background information to fully understand. But Hunt shines when discussing the complex and involved centuries of scholarship and interpretation of the play. He argues strongly for his own reading of the play, which focuses on the importance of Hamlet's interiority, but does not slight any other view. In addition, he provides cultural and historical contexts for the various readings, so that readers can understand how the Romantic movement of the early-19th century influenced German readings and how WW I changed the focus from the personal to the political. In lieu of performance discussion, Hunt includes numerous images of Hamlet, ranging from Richard Burbage to Mel Gibson. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers. A. Castaldo Widener University

Booklist Review

The most often performed of Shakespeare's plays, Hamlet is also, as far as Hunt could ascertain, the most performed of any play written in any language.  After 400 years and more, play and character have a history that Hunt makes as fascinating as any biography of Shakespeare. He proceeds chronologically, from the character's prehistory in Anglo-Saxon and French annalists of Denmark and in an early Elizabethan drama one of the most sought-after lost texts in world literature that was Shakespeare's most proximate source. Then there are the three versions of Shakespeare's play, usually conflated to produce a play script but, when read separately, each crucially different in terms of motivation (also, one contains an entire soliloquy not found in the others). Once the play was on the boards, the history of interpretation began. Every successive cultural era the English Restoration, the Enlightenment, the Romantic, Victorian, modern, and postmodern eras argued differently about what drives Hamlet. Telling and critiquing Hamlet's story, Hunt blends literacy and erudition into an intellectual brew as effervescent as the most sparkling after-theater discussion.--Olson, Ray Copyright 2007 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Hundreds of books have been published about Shakespeare's Hamlet. Hunt (Shakespeare, North Carolina State Univ.), who has twice been a fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, here provides a solid, useful introduction to the play, along with a summation of 400 years of literary criticism. He begins with a history of the inherited material Shakespeare used to inform Hamlet, then discusses the critical and interpretive problems resulting from the three different versions of Hamlet that currently exist. The book really gets interesting as Hunt explores the main schools of literary criticism and interpretation, his discussion encompassing the earliest efforts in the 18th century: romantic, modern, postmodern, post-postmodern, and new historicist. He also tries to identify the broad continuing appeal of the play's title character to show how the cultural milieu of each era affects perceptions of Hamlet. Finally, he details one of the most significant changes in interpretation resulting from Freud's theories of psychology. Included are black-and-white photos of actors in the role of Hamlet and a bibliographic essay covering the most significant resources for Hamlet research. Recommended for public libraries and for academic libraries supporting programs in Renaissance literature.-Shana C. Fair, Ohio Univ. Lib., Zanesville (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



"A riveting primer on the work many deem Shakespeare's greatest......astute analysis of major issues within the play, accessible overview of the history of their interpretation and a reading of contemporary criticism sure to set alight a few rooms in the ivory tower of Shakespearean studies"--Kirkus, starred review "With their attention to the literary, social, and historical contexts of As You Like It, these stimulating essays help make sense of Shakespeare's witty but puzzling comedy. Throughout, Hunt is careful to demonstrate what is at stake for the play in relation to its late-Elizabethan origins."--Douglas Bruster, author of Shakespeare and the Question of Culture Excerpted from Looking for Hamlet by Marvin W. Hunt All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. iv
Acknowledgementsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
1 The Prehistory of Hamletp. 13
2 The Three Hamletsp. 31
3 Yorick's Skull: Relocating Reality in Hamletp. 71
4 Dead Son Hamletp. 85
The Man in Black: Gallery One
5 Contrarians at the Gatep. 93
6 Hamlet among the Romantics: A Brief History of Griefp. 105
7 "This Distracted Globe": Hamlet and Melancholyp. 115
8 Hamlet among the Modernsp. 129
The Man in Black: Gallery Two
9 Postmodern Hamletp. 165
10 Looking for Hamletp. 199
Bibliographic Essayp. 209
Indexp. 223