The Tragedy of Hamlet
Essays in Criticism

JOHN DENNIS
Excerpt form an Essay on the Genius and Writings of Shakespeare,
London, 1712, 9-10

Dennis points out the characteristic unjust deaths in Shakespeare tragedies and that the writer himself has a tendency to kill his noble characters alongside his villainous ones. He cites Duncan and Banquo, as well as Lady Macduff and her children in Macbeth, Desdemona in Othello, and Shakespeare’s other famous tragedies. He goes into detail about Hamlet’s death; he says that he may have been deserving of his death had it not been for the call from heaven that bid him kill Claudius. Dennis says that these deaths serve no real purpose in the teaching of the play, and they are ultimately reduced to chance occurances that are included to make the play seem more realistic.



WILLIAM RICHARDSON- THE CHARACTER OF HAMLET
Excerpt form A Philosophical Analysis and Illustration of some of Shakespeare’s Remarkable Characters,
London, 1774, 97-98, 100-104

Richardson gives an analysis of the character of young Hamlet. He identifies hamlet as being “moved by higher principles” than his being unable to immediately succeed his father as King of Denmark. He identifies what moves Hamlet more, such as the impropriety of his mother’s behavior, and her lack of mourning for her late husband.
He goes on to describe Hamlet as a “Man whose sense of moral excellence is uncommonly exquisite” and says he is there by more susceptible to emotional influence from outside sources, and he will react to said influences in a more severe way than a man of normal moral stature. Hamlet is sorrowed by the events he learns of upon his return to Denmark, and is tortured by his mother's actions that dishonor his late father. Hamlet is subject to no soothing experience in the play at all, but is plunged deeper and deeper into anguish with every chance he fails to act on, and every death he has to live with.