Romantic Melancholy

She dwells with Beauty - Beauty that must die;
     And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
     Turning to Poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Aye, in the very temple of Delight
     Veiled Melancholy has her sov'reign shrine,
          Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
     Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
     And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
 - John Keats, "Ode on Melancholy"

There was such a surge of interest in Hamlet at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth that one has the impression that the play was rediscovered. This is not meant to imply that Hamlet had been forgotten. Quite the contrary. What was new was that we learned to look at the play in new ways that have dominated our view of the drama for the two centuries that followed. In particular, the period of the Romantic revolution happened to coincide with a burgeoning interest in psychology. There were considerable advances in our understanding of mental illness, and new hospitals (Bethlehem Hospital, in England, for example) were constructed, and new treatments developed. In the following section, we will see how the new psychological theories led to a very persuasive new understanding of Hamlet.