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Shakespeare's HamletPhilosophical Perspectives$
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Tzachi Zamir

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190698515

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190698515.001.0001

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Self-Uncertainty as Self-Realization

Self-Uncertainty as Self-Realization

(p.105) Chapter 4 Self-Uncertainty as Self-Realization
Shakespeare's Hamlet

Paul A. Kottman

Oxford University Press

A central issue in Hamlet is Hamlet’s attempt to live his life as his—his efforts at discerning a course of action that amounts to “leading” a life, rather than just suffering it. Shakespeare’s play addresses Hamlet’s difficulty in doing this, from two sides. First, Hamlet is framed by the breakdown of the social bonds on which the protagonists depend for the meaning and worth of their lives together. The play shows these bonds to be dissolvable. Second, Hamlet’s predicament does not leave us with a desperate nihilism. On the contrary, the play shows how the meaning of a life as individually lived is best gauged by the way it “bears up” under the collapse of traditional, inherited ways of life. Hamlet is what the testing of a new, radically uncertain practical identity looks like. He cultivates an abiding uncertainty about who he might become, as a mode of self-realization.

Keywords:   practical identity, tragedy, self-realization, plot, social bond, self-alienation

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