On Good and Evil

One of the characteristics of Shakespeare's drama in general, and of Hamlet in particular, is that it takes place within the context of a world that is defined by some sort of moral order. While the definition of the terms has differed over the years, viewers of Hamlet had felt compelled by the drama to apply some sense of what is good and what is evil to the action of the play. Most of the criticism of Hamlet from the late nineteenth century until the last decades of the twentieth century was dominated by a variety of influential critics for whom the moral order was clear; even if they saw its manifestations in the play differently, and used differing metaphors to describe it. This section touches on the common ground which underlies the mainstream of Hamlet interpretation during the century from 1880 to 1980.

1. A World Travailing for Perfection
2. Time Out of Joint
3. Embodiments of Evil: Claudius and Polonius
4. Options in a Corrupt Society
5. The Death of Meaning
6. To Be or Not To Be: Life Without Meaning
7. Hamlet's Response to Corruption
8. Facing Eternity
9. A Special Providence