HAMLET AND ORESTES

Topics: Tragedy, Euripides, Hamlet Pages: 98 (10428 words) Published: September 29, 2014
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1

THE BRITISH ACADEMY
THE ANNUAL SHAKESPEARE LECTURE
1914

Hamlet and Orestes
A

Study

in Traditional

Types

By
Gilbert Murray, LL.D., D.Litt.
Regius Professor of Greek in the University of Oxford
Fellow of the

Academy

New York
Oxford University Press American Branch
35 West 32nd Street

London

:

Humphrey Milford

THE BRITISH ACADEMY
THE ANNUAL SHAKESPEARE LECTURE
1914

Hamlet and Orestes
A

Study

in Traditional

Types

By
Gilbert Murray, LL.D., D.Litt.
Regius Professor of Greek in the University of Oxford
Fellow of the Academy

New York
Oxford University Press American Branch
35 West 32nd Street

London

:

Humphrey Milford

Copyright in the United States of America

by the Oxford University Press
American Branch

1914

CU387143

OCT 22 1914

ANNUAL SHAKESPEARE LECTURE,

1914

HAMLET AND ORESTES
A STUDY IN TRADITIONAL TYPES
By Gilbert Murray, LL.D.,

D.Litt.

FELLOW OF THE ACADEMY

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am no Shakespearian scholar
its

and

if

I have ventured, at the

to accept the perilous honour of deliv-

Academy,
Annual Shakespeare Lecture

invitation of the

ering

;

in succession to lecturers,

whose authority on this subject is
far greater than mine, it is for a definite reason. In studying the general development of Tragedy, Greek, English, French and
Mediaeval Latin, I have found myself haunted by a curious problem, difficult to state in exact terms and perhaps impossible to answer, which I should much like to lay before an audience such as this. It concerns the interaction of two elements in Literature, and especially in Drama, which is a very primitive and instinctive kind of literature I mean the two elements of tradition and invention, or the unconscious and the conscious. The problem has been raised in three quite recent discussions: I mention them in

chronological order. My own note on the Ritual Forms in Greeh Tragedy, printed in Miss Harrison's Themis; Mr. F. M. Cornford's book on the Origin of Attic Comedy; and a course of lectures given at Oxford by Miss Spens of Lady Margaret Hall

and

in the presence of listeners,

:

on The Scapegoat in Tragedy, which I hope to see published next year.
I am not proposing to-night to argue in favour of the
theories

propounded

any of these

in

treatises.

I

am

rather con-

sidering, in one salient instance, a large question which seems to As for my own tentative answer to the problem,
underlie them.

I will only mention that

One

friend has assured

it

me

has received in private two criticisms.
knew it before another

that every one

;

has observed that most learned men, sooner or later, go a

little

:

ANNUAL SHAKESPEARE LECTURE,

4

mad on some

subject or other, and that I

am

1914

just about the right

age to begin.

My subject is the study of two great tragic characters, Hamlet and Orestes, regarded as Traditional Types. I do not compare play with play, but simply character with character, though in the course of the comparison I shall of course consider the situations in which my heroes are placed, and the other persons with whom they are associated.

Orestes in Greek

occurs in

poem

is

very clearly a traditional character.

He

after poem, in tragedy after tragedy, varying

slightly in each one but always true to type.

He

is,

I think, the

most central and typical tragic hero on the Greek stage; and he ^eight if we
occurs in no less than seven of our extant tragedies
count the Iphigenia in Aulis, where he is an infant whereas
Oedipus, for instance, only comes in three and Agamemnon in





four.

I shall use all these seven plays as material

:

viz.

Aeschylus,

Choephori and Eumenides; Sophocles, Electra; and Euripides,
And
Electra, Orestes, Iphigenia in Tauris, and Andromache.
before any of these...
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