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What Happens in Hamlet Hardcover – 1 Jan 1951

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 3rd Revised edition edition (1 Jan. 1951)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521068355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521068352
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,959,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Book Description

John Dover Wilson's What Happens in Hamlet is a classic of Shakespeare criticism. The author critiques as well as brings out the significance of each part of the play. His analysis emphasises Shakespeare's dramatic art and shows how the play must be seen and heard to be understood. This is a readable, entertaining and scholarly book.


Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By Mr. G. Morgan TOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 April 2015
Format: Paperback
Quite the best book on 'Hamlet' that I have read and, scholarly (over?) interpretation notwithstanding, this remains THE book on this play that I always recommend to my 'A' level students and, when we found occasion for dispute, great. What is especially endearing is that it reads, much as the play reads, rather like a novel; it is the best sort of easy reading. Obviously Dover Wilson is in love with his subject and this is communicated. In fact, I remember it being on my own Reading List along with A.C. Bradley's famous book. Of the two it was this that engaged me and 40 years later it still does. To excite one to reread a book is in itself no mean feat and this is here easily accomplished. It is full of fascinating speculations and still reads well. The style remains engaging, the scholarship is obvious but not at all off-putting and can be read in a couple of bouts (I did it in one long stint first time). He is no show-off and the highest praise I can give it is that it is both readable, stimulating and will encourage you in enjoying one of the greatest plays ever not put to paper (by the author anyway). Indispensable.
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Format: Paperback
Brilliant. Throws a whole new light on the play, fully and convincingly explains aspects which generally confuse readers/ audiences and is readable and entertaining. First time I've wanted to read a critical work from cover to cover.
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Format: Paperback
John Dover Wilson's analysis of Hamlet contains so many words of wisdom it is difficult to criticise such obvious dedication to his work and his Cambridge Shakespeare was many years in the editing. What puts me off is the gross self-indulgence evident throughout the book which could be written in half the space. Having gained his professor's chair, it is evident that Wilson assumes his role as Shakespearean pedagogue with smug arrogance and at times almost tries to convince himself of his theories, such as the double-entry theory just before 'to be or not to be'. He must have overheard the conversation between Polonius Ophelia and Claudius, therefore he must have been eavesdropping, therefore he must have entered earlier, therefore therefore there must have been two entrances, therefore subsequent editors became confused and simply omitted the first one. The dumb-show confuses Wilson so he builds up an elaborate case for the King to have been in deep conversation with Polonius during it, based on the throwaway 'do you mark that?' He discards the love interest and the scene at the graveyard even though it is at this point that Hamlet finally declares his agony - plainly and simply: 'I loved Ophelia!' Granted, his researches did give us 'sullied' instead of 'solid' flesh - which may or may not be correct - and he enlightens us as to many facets of the play which would be known only to Elizabethan audiences. But some of his ideas stretch the imagination to say the least. he does not like the leaping in the grave scene, so he praises forthcoming research meant to prove that it didn't occur - even though,as he admits, it is sanctioned by the Bard himself in the play. I would thank Wilson for the invaluable background information he supplies but condemn him for gross indulgence and self-interest.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perhaps slightly old-fashioned these days, but nonetheless a fascinating and constantly insightful book on a play that we think we know only to well...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 12 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dover Wilson Plucks Out the Heart of Hamlet's Mystery 10 July 2000
By Ron Cooper - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If you could only own one book of analysis on Shakespeare's greatest play, Hamlet, then it ought to be John Dover Wilson's What Happens in Hamlet. Dover Wilson examines and answers many questions that had baffled generations of Shakespearean scholars: Hamlet's delay; Claudius' actions during the dumb show; Hamlet and Lucianus, the nephew of Gonzago; Hamlet's relationship with Ophelia, and with his mother. Dover Wilson's extensive knowledge of the customs and vocubulary of Elizabethan England help explore Hamlet's melancholy and the nature of ghosts during the time of Shakespeare. As a bonus, Dover Wilson responds to T.S. Eliot, who considered Hamlet "a dramatic failure." A must for anyone who loves Shakespeare!
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Find and readThe Heart of Hamlet in addition to this book 8 April 2003
By Richard P. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While Wilson's book is an interesting and worthwhile read, a far better book is The Heart of Hamlet by Bernard Grebanier (now sadly out of print). By a close reading of the play, particularly in terms of plot structure, coupled with a knowledge of the Elizabethan mind, Grebanier convincingly dismantles many of Wilson's interpretations. Some of Grebanier's major points, which are opposed to Wilson (and many commentators): Hamlet is not mad and never pretends to be; Hamlet does not procrastinate or hesitate, except for good reason; his tragic flaw is that not that he hesitates (or can't make up his mind) but that he is too rash; Hamlet is a man of action, capable of brutality, caught in extraordinary circumstances, not an etherial, delicate romantic philosopher; "To be or not to be" is not about suicide.
Having studied the play, reading many commentaries on it prior to directing it, I found Grabanier's book to be generally (not always) on target, where Wilson's left me very unsatisfied. Read both, and make up your own mind.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Road to Elsinore 30 Sept. 2000
By Lisa Gansky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A magnificent book! I'm so glad they came out with a new edition of this book so I had the chance to purchase it (even if I was a bit dismayed to see Mel Gibson on the cover instead of Kenneth Branagh)! My friend had the older edition, which I borrowed frequently while taking a Shakespeare course. Each scene is covered in depth, almost like a summary. It might actually be better titled "What Happens TO Hamlet" because once you finish the book, you feel like you know the man! Great for any student of Shakespeare, or for that matter, anyone interested in Shakespeare or the Prince of Denmark at all!
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hands down, the best book 17 May 2000
By Catherine Skidmore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best book on Hamlet that I've come across. Dover Wilson breaks down the show into themes - Gertrude's sin, feigned madness etc - and takes the reader in depth into the play. He provides historical background on the history of Denmark, Elizabethan history, ghosts in drama and really gives the most accurate interpretations that I've come across.
I highly recommend this book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wilson is always useful. He makes difficult matters clear. 29 Mar. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is still, after sixty years, the single indispensable book on Hamlet for any reader or playgoer.
Wilson presents the play's problems and difficulties (the matter of the ghost, for example) and provides historical context.
He examines awkward moments and explains them, using common sense and a broad knowledge of theatrical convention.
Although Wilson discusses Hamlet as it unfolds, the book can be opened to almost any page and enjoyed.
We learn about Elizabethan spiritualism and what Shakespeare's contemporaries would have thought about Germany and Denmark and marriage and the rights of kings.
Wilson's breadth of scholarship is never in doubt, nor is his enthusiasm for his subject.
Reading What Happens in Hamlet is like listening to an older, wiser, and most considerate friend.
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