Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness
Rhodri Lewis

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Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness is a radical new interpretation of the most famous play in the English language. By exploring Shakespeare’s engagements with the humanist traditions of early modern England and Europe, Rhodri Lewis reveals a Hamlet unseen for centuries: an innovative, coherent, and exhilaratingly bleak tragedy in which the governing ideologies of Shakespeare’s age are scrupulously upended.

This book establishes that life in Elsinore is measured not by virtue but by the deceptions and grim brutality of the hunt. It also shows that Shakespeare most vividly represents this reality in the character of Hamlet: his habits of thought and speech depend on the cultures of pretence that he affects to disdain, ensuring his alienation from both himself and the world around him.

Lewis recovers a work of far greater magnitude than the tragedy of a young man who cannot make up his mind. He shows that in Hamlet, as in King Lear, Shakespeare confronts his audiences with a universe that received ideas are powerless to illuminate—and where everyone must find their own way through the dark.

A major contribution to Shakespeare studies, this book is required reading for all students of early modern literature, drama, culture, and history.

Rhodri Lewis is professor of English literature and a fellow of St. Hugh's College at the University of Oxford. He is the author of Language, Mind, and Nature: Artificial Languages in England from Bacon to Locke and William Petty on the Order of Nature.