Appreciating Shakespeare

Announcing the publication of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a thoroughly annotated scholarly edition offering a radical restoration of the meaning of the play after two centuries of theatrical misinterpretation, academic misreading, and ideological revisionism.

Though it is one of Shakespeare’s greatest and most beloved plays, Hamlet has been much misunderstood—mostly because audience assumptions about the nature of reality have undergone huge changes between Shakespeare’s time and ours. Working under those different assumptions, some unconscious and some driven by Romantic, Freudian, neo-Marxist, post-modern, and other ideologies, modern scholars, play directors, and film producers have often wrenched Shakespeare’s play out of its intended meaning, obscuring what the play is really about and leaving audiences and readers perplexed.

Uniquely structured with text and notes side by side and founded on the best scholarship of the past, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet not only offers to homeschool teachers, as well as to all students of the play, glosses on the meanings of particular words and phrases as they would have been understood by Shakespeare’s audience and specific suggestions for actors and directors. More importantly, it makes clear that Hamlet offers a coherent experience of profound universal meaning, as relevant in our time as in its own, by clarifying the dramatic through-line of the play. The introduction and annotation demonstrate that the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is not of a man “who could not make up his mind,” or who thinks too much to act, or who exhibits the existentialist relativity of all values, or who is Oedipally in love with his mother, or who melancholically wishes he were dead, or who is a rebel against an “oppressive power structure.” These and other non-Shakespearean interpretations superimposed on the play vanish into insignificance in the face of the actual story of Hamlet as revealed in the original meanings of its speeches and their interrelation. That story is of a man who, in a dangerous and paradoxical moral situation—which stands for the situation of every one of us—becomes guilty of a tragic moral fall and then undergoes a spiritual turning leading to redemption.

Excerpt from the Annotation (Act III, Scene iii):

“At the start of this scene, the climax and turning point of the play, we (the audience) have the following knowledge: a) that the King feels guilty for something, though we are not [yet] absolutely sure it is the murder of the former king, his brother; b) that Hamlet is now sure that the King is guilty of that murder; c) that Hamlet is now also sure of the Ghost’s trustworthiness, and therefore of the justice of fulfilling the Ghost’s imperative; d) that Horatio is in agreement with Hamlet; e) that Hamlet seems ready to act against the King; f) that Hamlet intends to chastise but not harm his mother, to whose room he is going first. As a result, we expect that when Hamlet next meets the King he will confront and kill him, either in a passionate rage or in cool reason. In either case we know that Hamlet has both the right and the duty to perform that act, as the receiver of the Ghost’s explicit imperative, as the rightful king of Denmark, and as the chosen instrument of the divine vengeance. What actually happens in this scene is an utter surprise to the audience, partly because it takes place in a double-soliloquy rather than in dialogue and in non-action rather than in action, partly because it could not have been predicted from prevailing expectations based on Kyd’s popular Spanish Tragedy, and most importantly because it signifies a terrible fall from grace in the soul of the protagonist of the play, whose wit, invention, and nobility have drawn us to identify with him and to approve of his mission.

Scholarly reviews:

“Gideon Rappaport’s edition of Hamlet boldly realigns interpretation of the play with a critical tradition that values close reading, ponders moral questions that are universally applicable to human experience, and celebrates the achievement of great authors…This edition is the kind of achievement that requires a love of one’s subject no less than a commitment to finding the truth. As an editor and scholar, Rappaport demonstrates these qualities to a superlative degree.”
—Sean Keilen, Professor of Literature and Founding Director of the Shakespeare Workshop, University of California at Santa Cruz

“Gideon Rappaport has given a ‘divine shaping’ to Shakespeare’s play by synthesizing centuries of sources and scholarship. His two-column format rewards our eyes and rewords our reading, making the long-since familiar something ‘wondrous strange’ again. Teachers and students, actors and directors alike will benefit from this loving labor of unfolding.”
—Scott Newstok, Professor of English and Director of the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment, Rhodes College, and author of How to Think
Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education

“…an in-depth, powerful analysis of Hamlet that not only focuses on and returns the Bard’s original intentions to modern audiences, but explains why they were misinterpreted in the first place…an invaluable work of analytical art.”
—D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Publisher: One Mind Good Press (
Available in Hardcover (ISBN 979-8-218-11259-2) and Paperback (ISBN 979-8-218- 34591-4) through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores.
Contact: Gideon Rappaport, Ph.D.

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