Another one of Harold Bloom’s short guiding texts about one of Shakespeare’s plays. In these text (and I think this is the first of them, and the inspiration for the others) Bloom takes on the play either in order, thematically, or both and does both general and close-readings of them. At times the text is at the level of general musings and other times in depth, including with some additional reference at times.
The title of the book comes this speech by Polonius:
The best actors in the world, either for tragedy,
comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical,
historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-
comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or
poem unlimited: Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor
Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the
liberty, these are the only men.
If you’ve read enough Shakespeare, and certainly Hamlet, you know how much Shakespeare loves to talk about drama as a subject or for use in metaphor. So Bloom takes this moment as a totalizing understanding of Hamlet, as poem unlimited, in the sense of all that we need to know is within the text there. I am not sure he’s write, but I am also not sure he’s wrong.
He talks about how Hamlet both terrifies us and allures us throughout the play, how we’re deeply disturbed by his violence and his cruelty, but also completely allured by his humor, his intelligence, and his rhetoric. That I do agree with.
This is broken into short chapters and requires that you’ve read Hamlet, and also that you can more or less make your way through a play without notes because while he gives some line readings, it’s still a lot of Shakespeare in here.