It won’t be the last word on the play, but Critchley and Webster provide plenty of food for thought and fuel for obsession.

A philosophy professor and a psychoanalyst—also husband and wife—take Hamlet well beyond the confines of literary criticism and Shakespearean scholarship.

It’s likely that no more needs to be written about Hamlet, but Critchley (Philosophy/New School for Social Research; The Book of Dead Philosophers, 2008, etc.) and Webster (The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis, 2011) float the trial balloon that “arguably, Ophelia is not just the main casualty in Hamlet but its true tragic hero.” As “outsiders to the world of Shakespeare criticism,” they detail how their Hamlet obsession has generated “a goodly share of our connubial back and forth over the last couple of years.” They focus their analysis on the analyses of other critical outsiders who were also obsessed with Hamlet—Freud, Hegel and Nietzsche among them, along with Nazi apologist Carl Schmitt. In a tone that is companionable and conversational despite the authors’ obvious erudition, the book examines Hamlet through a variety of lenses—philosophical, psychological, political, Christian redemptive—without resolving the tension between thought and action that remains the essence of the work and generates so much fascination with it. “Hamlet is not a nice guy,” write the authors, particularly to his father’s murderer and successor, for whom the brooding prince is “a potentially malevolent force who should be feared, which—reflexively—is why he lives in fear.” Yet if “Hamlet is a political tragedy in the most intense sense,” then “the Danish prince is very much present at the birth of psychoanalysis.” And its influence extends through “Joyce’s astonishing trumping of all Shakespeare criticism in Ulysses,” which is “a rumination on Hamlet from beginning to end.”

It won’t be the last word on the play, but Critchley and Webster provide plenty of food for thought and fuel for obsession.

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-90761-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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