‘The third of this year’s seminars on Hamlet was the most exhilarating, possibly because the group had emerged from the self-consciousness that plagued us since the lockdown. Instead of accepting the stereotypes of the hero as melancholy, bitter and cynical, members questioned whether he could also be manic, innocent, joyous and trusting. Did we believe in fixed identities, especially among people as young as students? Or like the sociologist Irving Goffman, could we not argue that as actors on a stage, each person wants a persona that allows him to control others’ impressions?
We wondered whether the tragedy’s hero is not Ophelia. Interrogating “To be or not to be?”, we found she is subjected to “outrageous fortune” just as much as he. Hamlet should have been King: she might have been his queen. They both endure “the oppressor's wrong” and “the proud man's contumely”; but it is only the patient Ophelia, who is betrayed by all. Laertes gives her toxic advice: Polonius acts as her pander. But Hamlet treats her worst: he dumps her in public where court etiquette gives her no right to reply. She alone suffers “the pangs of despised love”.’ Mr Sewell (Session host and LitSoc facilitator)
Find out more about the work of our Year 13 LitSoc students in our school blog.