In Making Young Hamlet, Harkins opens us a new door to analyze Hamlet from a different perspective.

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Nilüfer Esenlilioğlu

Assist.Prof. Dr. Gillian Mary Elizabeth ALBAN

ING 523 Shakespeare Studies

29 November 2013



The tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, written by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1602 has remained Shakespeare’s best known, most analyzed play throughout the centuries. In “Making Young Hamlet”, Harkins opens us a new door to analyze “Hamlet” from a different perspective. In the first part of the article, Harkins brings forward the significance of Hamlet’s age and what it means to call Hamlet young by discussing the depiction of characters Fortinbras and Laertes, Claudius as well as Hamlet. Harkins conveys the idea that there are some underlying political facts for early modern construction of youth and age. Apart from this, in the second part of the article, Harkins argues how the play provides insights into an aged-based social order by mentioning George Whetsone’s comedy.

Harkins notes that Horatio’s calling Hamlet as “young Hamlet” at the end of the play’s first scene particularizes between a father and son with the same name. However, there lies something beyond that generation difference. Harkins states that the definitions “young” and “old” are relative terms that come from and rest upon a “series of social order” (Harkins, 334). He also adds that “The subordination of youth played a key part in early modern political authority” (Harkins, 335) At this point, Harkins argues what “the subordination of youth” stands for and whom it includes and why. To illustrate his ideas, he mentions the principal ideological doctrines summed up by Keith Thomas. According to these ideological tenets, the position of the young in society was to serve whereas the position of the old was to govern. It is stated that “only the mature had judgment, practical wisdom and self-mastery” (Harkins, 335). It is a crystal clear fact that the term old was defined positively to claim a political authority and superiority.

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To make a connection between his ideas and the play, Harkins gives a brief explanation about the historical background of the Eliazabeth’s reign. He reports that in the mid- to late twenties, to classify men as youths was a way of preventing potential economic and political rivals. Similarly, he notes that between 1576 and 1621, there was a rapid increase in the population of youth, and it resulted in the need of “coding youth as ignorant, rash, frivolous, or rebellious” since it was the only way to keep the potential young competitors away from political power (Harkins, 336) . Harkins ...

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