Hamlet, our crime-fiction contemporary
An essay from 1951 helps explain why Hamlet comes across like a crime-fiction protagonist. It's called "The Imagery of Hamlet," and its author, W.H. Clemen, tried to debunk the popular conception of Hamet as an irresolute waffler:
"Hamlet does not translate the general thought into an image paraphrasing it; on the contrary, he uses the opposite method: he refers the generalizations to the events and objects of the reality underlying the thought. ... In contrast to Othello and Lear, for example, who awaken heaven and the elements in their imagery and who lend expression to their might passions in images of soaring magnificence, Hamlet prefers to keep his language within the scope of reality, indeed, within the everyday world."Clemen cites a string of the harsh insults by which Hamlet lays bare to his mother Claudius' true nature ("A cutpurse of the empire and the rule ... a king of shreds and patches"). "Hamlet sees through men and things," Clemen writes. "He perceives what is false, visualizing his recognition through imagery"
Hamlet shuns elevated speech; he's earthy, and he speaks the truth, harshly when necessary. Sounds a bit like Sam Spade. Or Jack Taylor. Or Mike Hammer. Or— Who in crime fiction does Clemen's assessment of Hamlet remind you of?
© Peter Rozovsky 2009