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What Happens in Hamlet

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  131 ratings  ·  16 reviews
John Dover Wilson's What Happens in Hamlet is a classic of Shakespeare criticism. First published in 1935, it is still being read throughout the English-speaking world and has been widely translated. Hamlet has excited more curiosity and aroused more debate than any other play ever written. Is Hamlet really mad? Does he really see his father's ghost, or is it an illusion? ...more
Paperback, 380 pages
Published January 2nd 1951 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1935)
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Paul Bryant
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: shakespeare
Writing in 1935, our author says that modern audiences are always going to have a problem with Hamlet, because of the Ghost. Other ghosts in Shakespeare can be read as the products of fevered imaginations, like the appearance of the dead Banquo to Macbeth. Only he sees Banquo’s ghost, and the other dinner guests think Macbeth’s gone off his trolley. But the ghost of Hamlet’s father is REAL, objective, a thing which can be conversed with, observed by several persons.
You have to accept its reality
طارق الصالحي
Jan 17, 2015 marked it as to-read
I think It is the most book that I learn about the play of Hamlet
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Classic study of Hamlet that still stands up well today. Dover Wilson has an easy, engaging writing style; it may be a bit dated, but it flows well and, to me, at least, reads far better than much of the more abstruse and obtuse lit crit written these days. Of course, this book was written at a time when the average well-educated person could and often did read literary criticism, whereas today such writing has (with few exceptions) become inaccessible to most readers who are not experts or scho ...more
Wilson takes a close look at the action in Hamlet, esp. with regards to staging the play. If you have seen any recent film editions of Hamlet, you can see Wilson's influence. ...more
David Kowalski
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I feel that this, in concert with Granville-Barker’s Preface to Hamlet, and Bradley’s Shakespearean Tragedy, constitute the Big 3 in early 20th Century Hamlet analysis.
Of the three, I find this the most readable and personable. From its opening epistolary dedication to its closing appendices, I have loved this journey.
A genuine pleasure to read and explore and crucial text in appreciating Hamlet.
Bill FromPA
Perhaps the best scholarly work on Shakespeare I've read. Wilson writes in a highly accessible style, with passion and occasional wit, on a subject in which he is deeply interested. His close readings are always meant to get to the text's meaning and implications for an understanding of the play, not to weave a tapestry of imagery nor to excavate some sub-subtext based a a word's secondary or tertiary meaning. ...more
Andrew Darling
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Why doesn't Hamlet recognise his old friend Horatio when he meets him in Scene 2 of Act 1? It's often puzzled me. But of course! Hamlet's eyes were full of tears! Obvious, innit? Well, it wasn't to me, until I read this excellent book. So much which is opaque in this sublime play suddenly becomes clear through Professor Wilson's words. ...more
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Essential but not infallible.

He rides a couple of hobby-horses, some now pretty dated, and this book, first published in 1936, of course is not able to take advantage of more recent scholarship (e.g. James Shapiro in "1599") on the variations in texts.
Apr 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Hamlet ending EXPLAINED
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A wonderful insight in what is probably one of the richest and most mysterious tragedies ever written. Hamlet has always and will always hold a secure spot in my heart (along with Horatio).
Jacob Hurley
a thorough analysis of the "problems" of hamlet, and its context ...more
Cory Howell
May 05, 2010 rated it liked it
This book, which has been through numerous reprintings, has been widely cited as one of the more influential texts on Hamlet that has been written in the twentieth century. When I first read it, I found it interesting, to say the least. But a lot of Wilson's reasoning about the plot of Shakespeare's play seemed quite flawed to me. I was annoyed as well by Wilson's smug writing style, and the way in which he would have us believe in Shakespeare as an almost supernaturally gifted writer. Sure, Sha ...more
Louise Armstrong
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing

I'm not even teaching Hamlet at the moment but this is so clear and interesting I sat down and read it straight through. JDW spent 17 years reading about Elizabethan history so that we don't have to!! He illuminates puzzling bits of the plot with this knowledge. I wish I'd found it earlier.

I loathe people who think they are cleverer than Shakespeare and write fashionable toffee about his work. JDW starts with the idea that Shakespeare was a brilliant dramatist who knew exactly what h
Mar 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: theatre-plays
Employing a close reading of the play, and including commentary on the textual variants among the quarto and Folio texts, Dover Wilson's interpretation of Hamlet is a deep dive into the Shakespearean tragedy. ...more
Oct 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book changed my life. My 6th form teacher asked the class to read it in the year we were studying Hamlet for A level. I learned so much about the play and Dover Wilson’s understanding of the “Hamlet” in performance is unrivalled. Absolutely essential reading for any student of the play.
Sannie Hald
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fine study
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Hamlet Wuthering
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