“What’s Happiness in Hamlet?”

Dr Richard Chamberlain will be giving his research seminar, “What’s Happiness in Hamlet?” at 1pm on Tuesday 23rd October in MY 120.  Please come along:

What’s Happiness in Hamlet?

Rephrasing Dover Wilson’s famous title highlights in Hamlet a relationship between event and emotion. This, a play best known for its exploration of melancholy, can also be read as a meditation on the good life, as negative reflection upon utopia. Its account of suffering bears upon the nature of happiness, even if the latter seems largely absent. The paper will explore Shakespeare’s use of ‘hap’, ‘perhaps’ and ‘happy’ and argue that the play imagines happiness as serendipity, or the evasion of conventional moral goods and totalising social systems. It will see Hamlet’s study of political repression as part of a broader thesis: that happiness lies in ‘hap’ (suddenness, spontaneity, chance) rather than bureaucratic prescription. The conditions for this kind of utopian freedom, however, are difficult to achieve, and the play’s tragic sting can be read in this light.


Dr Richard Chamberlain is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Northampton. His principal research interests are Shakespeare, Renaissance literature and critical theory. He is the author of Radical Spenser: Pastoral, Politics and the New Aestheticism (EUP, 2005), and is working on a new book, Shakespeare’s Refusers.

Posted on October 19, 2012, in Events, School of the Arts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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