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Hamlet in Purgatory

Hamlet in Purgatory - 01 edition

ISBN13: 978-0691102573

Cover of Hamlet in Purgatory 01 (ISBN 978-0691102573)
ISBN13: 978-0691102573
ISBN10: 0691102570
Edition: 01
Copyright: 2001
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Published: 2001
International: No

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Hamlet in Purgatory - 01 edition

ISBN13: 978-0691102573

Stephen Greenblatt

ISBN13: 978-0691102573
ISBN10: 0691102570
Edition: 01
Copyright: 2001
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Published: 2001
International: No
Summary

Stephen Greenblatt sets out to explain his longtime fascination with the ghost of Hamlet's father, and his daring and ultimately gratifying journey takes him through surprising intellectual territory. It yields an extraordinary account of the rise and fall of Purgatory as both a belief and a lucrative institution--as well as a capacious new reading of the power of Hamlet.

In the mid-sixteenth century, English authorities abruptly changed the relationship between the living and dead. Declaring that Purgatory was a false "poem," they abolished the institutions and banned the practices that Christians relied on to ease the passage to Heaven for themselves and their dead loved ones. Greenblatt explores the fantastic adventure narratives, ghost stories, pilgrimages, and imagery by which a belief in a grisly "prison house of souls" had been shaped and reinforced in the Middle Ages. He probes the psychological benefits as well as the high costs of this belief and of its demolition.

With the doctrine of Purgatory and the elaborate practices that grew up around it, the church had provided a powerful method of negotiating with the dead. The Protestant attack on Purgatory destroyed this method for most people in England, but it did not eradicate the longings and fears that Catholic doctrine had for centuries focused and exploited. In his strikingly original interpretation, Greenblatt argues that the human desires to commune with, assist, and be rid of the dead were transformed by Shakespeare-consummate conjurer that he was-into the substance of several of his plays, above all the weirdly powerful Hamlet. Thus, the space of Purgatory became the stage haunted by literature's most famous ghost.

This book constitutes an extraordinary feat that could have been accomplished by only Stephen Greenblatt. It is at once a deeply satisfying reading of medieval religion, an innovative interpretation of the apparitions that trouble Shakespeare's tragic heroes, and an exploration of how a culture can be inhabited by its own spectral leftovers.

Author Bio

Greenblatt, Stephen : Harvard University

Stephen Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor at Harvard University, where he teaches English and chairs the Concentration in History and Literature. He is the author of, among other books, Renaissance Self-Fashioning, Shakespearean Negotiations, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World, and (with Catherine Gallagher) Practicing New Historicism. He is also a founding editor of Representations, general editor of The Norton Shakespeare, associate general editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, and president of the Modern Language Association.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements
Prologue
Chapter One: A Poet's Fable
Chapter Two: Imagining Purgatory
Chapter Three: The Rights of Memory
Chapter Four: Staging Ghosts
Chapter Five: Remember Me
Epilogue
Notes
Index

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