Saturday, May 21, 2011

Milton's Hamlet?

From a review of Harold Bloom's latest book, The Anatomy of Influence.

“The Anatomy of Influence” is Bloom’s effort — his last, he says — to recalibrate his great theory, only shorn of its “gnomic” obscurities and written in “a subtler language that will construe my earlier commentary for the general reader and reflect changes in my thinking.” One of those changes is that over time his notion of influence has become more orthodox, growing closer, in its sensitivity to echo and allusion, to the approach of the hated New Critics.

In a superb chapter, “Milton’s Hamlet,” Bloom shows how the Satan of “Paradise Lost” is the offspring of Hamlet, each a soliloquist who stands at a remove from the tragedy that engulfs him, puzzling out eloquent conundrums that press toward “depths beneath depths,” limitless self-consciousness. “It does not matter that Satan is an obsessed theist and Hamlet is not,” Bloom writes. “Two angelic intellects inhabit a common abyss: the post-Enlightenment ever-augmenting inner self, of which Hamlet is a precursor, intervening between Luther and Calvin, and later Descartes and Spinoza.”

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