Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Probably more time has been misspent in trying to fit together the pieces of the Hamlet puzzle than in all of the investigations into alchemy. From the very beginning of Hamlet criticism there seem to have been two diverse reactions to the play. Carried over the twentieth century, these schools are represented by T. S. Eliot, who holds that Hamlet is an artistic failure, and J. D. Wilson, who justifies, to his own satisfaction, at any rate, every line of the play. If Eliot sits at a table with the Hamlet puzzle before him, his chin in his hand and his elbow resting on the table, declaring that some of the pieces are missing, Wilson upbraids his negligence in not lifting his elbow, and there beneath it, finding the truant sections. The mere fact that two such estimable contemporary critics hold such incompatible views would tend to shake the confidence of the most intrepid newcomer to the field of Hamlet criticism. Probably no other single work of art has been disposed of so many times as has Hamlet. Certainly, the most ambitious attempt at this sort of disposition is to be found in investigations of the aforementioned J. Dover Wilson, in the third part of his trilogy of criticism of Hamlet. Yet, strangely enough, the Hamlet studies continue to pour forth; studies which assert, or “disassert”, that Hamlet was a pacifist, a coward, a psychotic, a reationalist, a positivist, a paranoiac, a weakling, a tyrant, a philosopher, an incompetent, a stout man, and a pregnant woman.


Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in the Graduate School of the University of Omaha. Copyright 1953 Frank M. Paulsen.

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