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Samuel Pepys, in his Diary, greatly admired the play, as performed repeatedly by Thomas Betterton from 1661 until 1709; in 1688 he praised the role of Hamlet as "the best part, I believe, that ever man acted." 2The Earl of Shaftesbury appears to have spoken on behalf of other eighteenth-century observers when, in his (1736) similarly found an instructive universality in the play that demonstrated brilliantly how it conforms with the demands of poetic justice.Samuel Johnson commended Shakespeare for his "just representation of general nature." These comments are notably consistent in their view of the play as morally instructive and universal.
3Romantic criticism of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries turned in quite a new direction, toward a study of character and emotion.
Goethe was perhaps the first to focus on Hamlet's hesitation to act.
This is shown when he says to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, "I know not-lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises" (2.2.280-281).
Later Hamlet tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he is just faking his madness when he says, "I am but mad north-north-west.
As well as trying to be true to himself, Hamlet is an expert at acting out roles and making people falsely believe him.
The roles he plays are ones in which he fakes madness to accomplish his goals.Instead of playing the part of the vengeful son, or dropping the issue entirely, he spends the entire act “slacking off';.He avoids the decision he has to make and pretends to be mad.While one second Hamlet pretends to be under a strange spell of madness, seconds later he may become perfectly calm.He struggles with the issue of avenging his father’s death.Character criticism continued to pursue its aims, especially in Ernest Jones's (1899), namely, that Hamlet is driven subconsciously by an incestuous desire for his mother which complicates his task of avenging the murder of his father; how can he kill the hated uncle for having taken sexual possession of the mother whom Hamlet himself yearns for?Gilbert Murray, in , 1952), sees the play as dominated by the interrogative mood, by questions, riddles, enigmas, and mysteries.is, like the others, "great" in its embrace of universal issues: good and evil, temptation and sin, self-knowledge and betrayal.Hamlet stands revealed in this broad moral context as an idealist, deeply sensitive, vulnerable to the shocks of a father's murder and a mother's hasty remarriage.With other people, this thought is the last thought in his mind.If he had any of the resolve he had showed earlier, his act of revenge would have already been completed.