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How does the rash yet serene Hamlet of act 5 arise from the passive and grief-stricken Hamlet of act 1? What path leads him from sickened thoughts of birth and incest to the certainty that thoughtfulness itself must be escaped through bold action? The roles of Senecan avenger and patient Christian may seem worlds apart, observes William Kerrigan, but Shakespeare fused them in a character that has fascinated the world for centuries. In this lively study, Kerrigan celebrates both Hamlet's perfectionthe character's creation of new ideals out of an inheritance of disillusionment-and Hamlet 's perfection-the play's brilliance as Shakespeare's greatest tragedy. Kerrigan's approach reflects his interests in literary formalism, historical scholarship, intellectual history, and psychoanalysis.
William Kerrigan is professor of English at the University of Massachusetts. His books include The Prophetic Milton and The Sacred Complex.