Hamlet is an icon, a stereotype, and a mystery. He has long escaped his drama and reappears as a spectre in other plays, media, or philosophy. In this seminar we will move between Shakespeare’s ... read more
Hamlet is an icon, a stereotype, and a mystery. He has long escaped his drama and reappears as a spectre in other plays, media, or philosophy. In this seminar we will move between Shakespeare’s dramatic text, its performance as event, and its cultural history in order to trace „Hamlet and his problems,“ as T.S. Eliot put it. We will explore the performance conditions and theatrical history of Early Modern England and Shakespeare’s place within it, examine the language and dramatic structures of the play, and trace how its themes and ideas have changed over time. We will encounter seminal Hamlet actors from Richard Burbage to Lars Eidinger, including female Hamlets such as Sarah Bernhardt and Asta Nielsen. We will engage with rewritten Hamlets and the question of adaptation on stage and in other media, such as in Heiner Müller’s Hamletmachine or Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Finally, we will engage with how philosophers such as Hegel or Derrida have responded to the Danish prince. In doing so, the seminar seeks to both illuminate the drama of Hamlet but also use the to understand crucial transformations in theatre and literary history up to the present.
The course will include a 3-day field trip to London in January to attend a workshop and performance at the restored Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The following are mandatory: active and regular participation in class, attendance of theatre performances, an in-class presentation, and a final essay (20 pages).