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Hamlet: Poem Unlimited

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  468 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
In Harold Bloom's New York Times bestselling Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, the world's foremost literary critic theorized on the authorship of the historic playHamlet. In this engaging new stand-alone work, he offers a full and warmly personal account ofthe play itself, explores its extraordinary impact throughout the history of western literature, and seeks to ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published March 2nd 2004 by Riverhead Books (first published February 19th 2003)
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Sep 05, 2009 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dear Dr. Bloom, high grand poobah of Literature,

I sometimes agree with you, and sometimes I don't (in particular, I strongly disagree with your opinion about dogs). This is cool. I don't like to read things that I agree 100% with; that way lies stagnation. I really enjoyed your book about Blake, and I think Naomi Wolf needs to have her head examined. I have to ask you something, however. The question is no doubt influenced in part by The Shakespeare Wars Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascoes, Palac
Harold Bloom says that Hamlet knows more than we do, and he's probably right because Harold Bloom knows more than we do. In fact, I'm tempted to say that Harold Bloom knows more than just about everyone in the known universe. Except my wife, of course, but I don't have time to get into that right now...

I revel in Bloom's bardolatry like some ignorant celebrant exposed to the mysteries of a sacred passion that he really doesn't understand. But I also realize that Bloom is kinda full of shit, and
May 03, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: shakespeare
In Hamlet, Polonius gives a long winded description of actors coming to play before the king from which this book gets it's name. Poem Unlimited.

"The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited. Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty, these are the only men."

I think Shakespeare pokes fu
My husband and I have a perennial bet whenever we read a Bloom Shakespeare critique: how long before he shoehorns in a totally irrelevant or ludicrous comment about Falstaff? This time it was at page 6: Falstaff's command of prose is "greater than that of any other" Shakespearean character...except _possibly_ Hamlet. Okayyyyy...

Falstaffian hyperbole aside, this is actually a pretty good book, once Bloom gets all his harrumphing about "irresponsible" Hamlet productions out of his system. Bloom wr
Apr 16, 2016 Clara rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, school, nonfiction
1.5 stars, rounded up because of my optimistic view that maybe if I read the entire works of Shakespeare, plus a few other things, and sat down and analyzed every last word of this book, that I might like it a little bit.

I have no idea why my Lit teacher assigned this book. When she assigned it, our class was only about halfway through Act II of Hamlet, so huge parts of this book would have absolutely no context for us. I've read Hamlet before, and I still felt that huge portions of this book ha
Jan 09, 2012 Karl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-and-plays
Another great work by Harold Bloom, his writings on Shakespeare are inexhaustible, his insights deep, and his observations keen.

Having the pleasure of reading The Tragedy Of Prince Hamlet a number of times, a lot of what consists in this small work is not new to me.

One of the most original questions Bloom poses in this work is questions like, and I am paraphrasing here, Why do Fortibras and Hamlet never meet? And what would they talk about? There's lots of other questions like this, that Bloom s
Here's the thing: Harold Bloom is utterly fucking nuts, and I disagree with or laugh at the majority of his pronouncements.

But here's the other thing: he loves Hamlet unabashedly and very personally, the way almost no other critic I've read will admit to loving it. And while I don't agree with all of his secondary comments, I think he's got the play (and the character) nailed: Hamlet and Hamlet as representations of modern consciousness straining to transcend worldly limitations. The play Bloom
Mar 11, 2014 Jill rated it really liked it
A brisk, beautiful read. Admittedly my first introduction to Bloom, part of me was expecting to hate him for some reason (and, with some throwaway anti-feminist comments in relation to Ophelia & Gertrude, I was getting there at the beginning). But -- such lucid, lilting prose. Such an honest (if at times overweening/blind) affection. Such genuine respect for genius. Such thoughtful, elucidating commentary.

My favourite part of this piece is the frequent peppering of references to what other,
Rachel Terry
Oct 02, 2012 Rachel Terry rated it really liked it
Shelves: criticism
I enjoy seeing what goes on in Harold Blooms brain, and this book is a nice little peek. Somehow, it seems perfectly natural for him to throw in random parenthetical asides like (Rosenstern and Gildencrantz--for the sake of variety) because you realize that's just how your brain would work, if only you were 1/16 as deep and quick as Bloom. I love Hamlet, except when he talks to Ophelia.
I guess if you're Harold Bloom, you can get away with writing a book like this. Not that Bloom does not have interesting things to say, or that he's not a good writer, but this feels like it was tossed off over lunch rather than thought through and laboured over. What Blooom can toss off over lunch is of course still insightful and digestible, but it's not exactly a deep study. In some cases, short chapters consist of over 50% direct quotation from the play, with little or no close reading or an ...more
Jamie Grefe
Feb 17, 2013 Jamie Grefe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dramatic-arts
Bloom has managed to smoothly give voice to those otherwise voiceless feelings I have for Hamlet and Shakespeare. He takes us through the play via characters, scenes, and plays within plays within plays, only to leave us leaping into boundless space, left agape at all of those things we wish to hear Hamlet talk to us about, but never will.
Sarah Hofhine
Apr 13, 2008 Sarah Hofhine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shakespeare geeks
Some interesting insights into the play...I didn't agree with everything he said, but he brought up some stuff i've never considered, i'll have to read Hamlet again. My biggest complaint is that he's a bit pompous and I have to read it with a dictionary next to me. Which is saying quite a bit, because I read the dictionary for fun.
Gary Anderson
Sep 23, 2014 Gary Anderson rated it really liked it
Hamlet: Poem Unlimited offers twenty-five brief ruminations on various aspects of the play from critic Harold Bloom unified by the notion that Hamlet and its main character contain depths of consciousness scarcely fathomable by mere mortals. Bloom says that Hamlet is a character akin to Adam, David, Jesus, Prometheus, and even Shakespeare himself. In his wide-ranging work Harold Bloom rarely seems in awe of anything, but Hamlet leaves him analytically breathless: “Don’t condescend to the Prince ...more
Jacob Lines
Feb 05, 2015 Jacob Lines rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama
Shakespeare is better with a guide. I learned that the hard way. Reading Shakespeare without any help is like anyone not raised playing baseball trying to watch a baseball game - you understand something is going on, and some people are enjoying it, but you have no idea why or why they even care. So, having fallen in love with Hamlet, and having read Bloom's "Shakespeare: the Invention of the Human," I was thrilled to discover this little book. It is a slim book, just 154 pages total, but it pac ...more
Sep 09, 2013 Hannah rated it it was ok
Thoughtful and not without value or good points, this book suffers from being hugely pretentious and presenting huge claims without, for me, full explanation or proper textual backing.
Feb 02, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it
Just re-read this little book after seeing a production of the play. Bloom is always smart, and this is full of insights, if a tad all-over-the-place.
Richard Martin
May 09, 2014 Richard Martin rated it it was amazing
Harold Bloom writes the seminal book about "Hamlet." Composed of twenty-five mini essays each of three to five pages, makes for spritely reading. All major characters have their own essay. Bloom introduces the term "apotheosis (making one to be viewed as Godly.) and applies it to Hamlet. Hamlet is highly aware conscience ( Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king). Bloom posits that the famous "To be; or not be" passage deals with elements of consciousness rather than suicide. The book is e ...more
Ryan Bastian
Jul 22, 2013 Ryan Bastian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare
I've read a handful of essays on the topic of Shakespeare from Bloom, but this was my first time reading one of his collections. Poem Unlimited is a really simple read, and is compatible for the Shakespeare enthusiast as much as is it for the Shakespeare novice (assuming you've read Hamlet at least once). Bloom is clearly in love with this particular tragedy of Shakespeare, and even more so with its' main protagonist. He does a fair bit of comparison between Hamlet's character and Sir John Falst ...more
Feb 06, 2013 Jenny rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed Bloom's 154-page love fest for Hamlet and for Hamlet. I can't say that Bloom overestimates the influence of Hamlet because the examples he offers (Dostoevsky, Goethe, Faulkner, etc.) prove that the influence of the play is as unlimited as the play itself. However, I did find Bloom's praise of the play, of Shakespeare, and of Hamlet a bit hyperbolic. Comparing Hamlet to Jesus Christ is a bit over the top for me, and so are claiming that Hamlet's death is an apotheosis and the ...more
Aug 17, 2013 Simone rated it liked it
This is an easy read, compared to Bloom's other books, and highly engrossing. It is divided into very short chapters that develop his reading of the play. I like the amount of extra information it brings, especially regarding other critics and the influence the play had on subsequent literature. But I don't really like the endless comparisons of characters, and the characters being compared to Shakespeare and other people. I believe he loses objectivity in those parts. I also think he repeats hi ...more
John Hawkins
Apr 08, 2016 John Hawkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you can get by Bloom's dense pomposity you will find a wonderful essay on this great work. He says of the play, " Of all poems, it is the most unlimited. As a meditation upon human fragility in confrontation with death, it competes only with the world's scriptures." I agree. Bloom's writing opens us to as many questions as the play does about existence and consciousness.
Kristin Boldon
This review is for Harold Bloom's book about Hamlet, but Bloom is so grandiose that it looks as if his book IS Hamlet. Bloom is a educated scholar, but too much of this is permeated with "may" and "believe" and it's painfully repetitive as I found his Invention of the Human. Necessary in regard to Shakespeare and Hamlet, but less than pleasant.
Jenn Moss
Feb 12, 2016 Jenn Moss rated it it was amazing
This is a fast read; Harold Bloom doesn't waste time proving his points with scholarly notes or arguments. Instead, he allows us to eavesdrop as he fanboys over Hamlet, grapples with the nihilistic implications of Hamlet and somehow keeps finding ways to bring up his all time favorite Shakespearean character, Falstaff. And I enjoyed every minute of it! When it comes to Shakespeare, Harold Bloom's head is a fascinating place to be.
Dec 13, 2015 Ryan rated it really liked it
I'm not saying I understood everything Bloom was talking about throughout this book, but I really enjoyed looking at Hamlet from the multitude of angles presented. This book made me really want to reread Hamlet to understand some of Bloom's points.
Aug 29, 2015 Ed rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun, short, insightful meditation upon Hamlet.

I had thought I'd reread and then recycle this. But I'll save it, reread it someday, and then recycle it.

August 26, 2015
July 29, 2008
Aug 06, 2015 Harvey rated it liked it
- from the jacket: "Hamlet: Poem Unlimited is Bloom's attempt to uncover the mystery of both Prince Hamlet and the play, how both prince and drama are able to break through the conventions of theatrical mimesis and the representation of character, to make us question the very nature of theatrical illusion. In twenty-five brief chapters, Bloom takes us through the major soliloquies, scenes, characters, and action of the play, to explore the enigma at the heart of the drama, which is essential to ...more
Jul 21, 2014 Spectacles rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
4 stars. Hamlet: Poem Unlimited is a literary criticism book by Harold Bloom about Hamlet by William Shakespeare. I did enjoy this book quite a bit simply because it brings up some very thought-provoking ideas and is very entertaining. But, I didn’t love it. Maybe it was the very overloaded use of big vocabulary or maybe it was because I wasn’t completely convinced by Bloom’s arguments. Maybe it was that I was required to read this. I’m not sure. I don’t really know why I didn’t love this book. ...more
Terence Carlisle
Mar 07, 2016 Terence Carlisle rated it really liked it
An engrossing analysis by Professor Bloom, an appendix of sorts to his wonderful "Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human."
Sep 15, 2015 Colin rated it really liked it
Professor Bloom seems to think that Prince Hamlet is too smart for his own good. Not only that, but the guy knows he's too smart for his own good, but still does his thing, knowing full well how it would all end! And, the prince is the something that's rotten in the state of Denmark. Holy Smokes! As if the bugger didn't already have an outsize ego.
But, seriously, folks, prepare for really, really in depth analysis of this play and its main character. Maybe reread it first, just to make sure not
Jan 12, 2009 Angela rated it it was ok
I've read Hamlet about 3 dozen times and I find myself growing more and more and curious about the story all the time. Bloom is clearly more obsessive than I am, but he weaves together a pretty interesting discussion about why Hamlet continues to fascinate us 400 years after it was written. He also provides a lot of insight into what Shakespeare may have been thinking when he wrote his play within a play within a play. Fun read if you're obsessed with Hamlet, otherwise, I wouldn't recommend it. ...more
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Bloom is a literary critic, and currently a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than 20 books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He has edited hundreds of anthologies.
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