Symposium: ‘Emotions and Hamlet: Then and Now’
Ian McEwan’s recent novel Nutshell (2016), in which Hamlet is an unborn foetus, is only the latest in a line of appropriations of Shakespeare’s plays stretching back to 1600. Hamlet itself stretches beyond the seventeenth century, drawing on sources that date back to twelfth-century Denmark, and referring within itself to relics of older drama that Shakespeare may have seen as a boy in Stratford. Hamlet looks both backwards and forwards in time. The play also covers a remarkable range of emotional states, including anger, love, hatred, happiness, melancholy and despair. Indeed, Hamlet stages a plethora of emotional practices: a funeral and a marriage, a vindictive ghost in Purgatory, a young woman whose mental equilibrium has been dislodged by the murder of her father by her own erstwhile lover, an inscrutable monarch under suspicion of murder, a couple of mordantly cheerful gravediggers, and a young prince back from university and grieving for his deceased father. This symposium invites new readings of the play, focusing on any aspect of its emotional life in the widest sense.