Postmodern Shakespeare: Thinking Through Hamlet’s Subversive Character


Author: Yu-min Huang, National Changhua University of Education, Taiwan
Published: January 24, 2017

Citation: Huang, Y. (2017). Postmodern Shakespeare: Thinking Through Hamlet’s Subversive Character. IAFOR Journal of Ethics, Religion & Philosophy, 3(1).


Over the centuries people have always faced the deaths of their beloved ones in their families and suffer from grief over them. William Shakespeare in Hamlet offers his ideas of how a son faces his father’s death and his mother’s remarriage, ideas of whether purgatory exists and ideas of which eschatology is correct in the English Reformation, either Catholic or Protestant. In this essay, I examine two traces and one reversal in the play and ask many what-if questions through the perspective of Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction. In my argument, Shakespeare misspeaks to his readers in the atmosphere of Protestant Elizabethan England the meanings of death in Prince Hamlet’s perspective in order to reverse his readers’ way of seeing and to make them experience Prince Hamlet’s Catholicism as the form of the opposite, by which they can become theologians themselves and meet God behind His mask. In employment of Derrida’s center-freeplay structurality, I believe that it is through Prince Hamlet’s subversive character that Ghost King Hamlet is the first center into which Prince Hamlet comes as freeplay in the structurality of father and son, and Prince Hamlet is the second center into which the other characters come as freeplay in the structurality of the court, intertwined with the structurality of the religion where no existence of purgatory in Lutheranism comes as center into which the existence of purgatory in Catholicism comes as freeplay, by the structurality of authorship where author comes as center into which the play Hamlet comes as freeplay.


William Shakespeare, Hamlet, death, purgatory, revenge, Postmodernism, Derrida, deconstruction