In their re-reading of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” philosophy professor Simon Critchley and psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster examine the play alongside writers and philosophers such as Lacan, Freud and Melville. The result: “Stay, Illusion!” is a cultural and psychological analysis of the famous play, which reminds us why it has endured. They join us in the studio.

Dr. Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at The New School, and co-author of "Stay, Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine"
Dr. Jamieson Webster, psychoanalyst in private practice in New York; professor at Eugene Lang College; and co-author of "Stay, Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine"

  • thucy

    Heard this couple on WNYC’s Lopate show and immediately ordered the book. Hamlet is about Ophelia? Why not? the older I get, the more I think The Godfather is about Fredo and Kay Corleone.

    Hamlet had confounded me for decades until I tuned into Stanford’s “Literature of Crisis” lecture series… the portrait of Hamlet as a man experiencing every form of crisis (personal, family, political, religious – and a few others!) made the play deeply relevant.

  • Skip Conrad

    It is interesting how Hamlet plays out in real life. Consider JFK Jr. What had been the prime directive of his life? According to a “Hamlet” analysis, the prime directive of his life had been finding the real assassins of his father, President John F. Kennedy. There is not much evidence of this, except for that the fact that his chosen profession field was – Investigative Political Journalism!

    How close he got to JFK’s killer, I can not say. But we all know that if he had gotten too close, it would have meant his life. His plane crash near Martha’s Vineyard, still has a few loose ends, and unanswered questions.

  • NMirza

    How about looking at Hamlet through Scarlet Letter?

  • Bob Fry

    I’m an engineer. I never read Shakespeare. Should I? Would I understand it? What would it mean to “understand” Shakespeare? I’m confused by today’s show with all this talk of psychoanalysis, I thought that went out decades ago.

    • thucy

      The focus on psychoanalysis is because one of the writers is… non-spoiler alert… a psychoanalyst, as revealed by the host.

      That said, there are many political and historical lenses (even history of science) through which to view the play, which the guests’ book does not elide.

      I’m not an engineer, but I would never deign to ask why I should be bothered to think about the role of engineering in our world. Similarly, the best engineers are open to things they don’t understand. Keep an open mind.

  • LM

    Id like to hear more of a defense of the claims that Hamlet is 1) melancholic and 2) delaying. These are largely 19th century interpretations that don’t always hold up against the text.

  • Robert Pickett

    Unfortunately, I tuned in late, I would have loved to be a part of the discussion as I am directing Hamlet right now in Half Moon Bay. Thucy, I have found it to be a profound experience as the actor playing Hamlet and myself delve into all the issues that confront him. It is a deeply religious play. We have not found him to be melancholy in the least, disturbed and conflicted, but who wouldn’t be under the circumstances. Bob, I am favor experiencing Shakespeare through performance rather than reading it.

    • thucy

      I would like to see that. I really recommend the Stanford Lecture series “Literature of Crisis” – they argue that the scientific effect of the “discovery” of the New World has a profound influence on the play, as does Copernicam theory. The series is free on iTunes U.
      Can’t imagine having to play Hamlet – big challenge.

  • John Scyci

    I caught the show on Hamlet and was glad that Dr. K. brought us up to speed. About 200 words per minute. Dr. K. must be paid by the word. His rushed delivery leaves no time for affect. He uses all his time to let everybody know that he knows everything. Slow down my friend. Slow down.

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