10 Great Books continues online for April, with Dr David McInnis presenting on Shakespeare's Hamlet (1602).
Associate Professor Tim Lynch, convener of 10 Great Books, will introduce you to our speakers each month and facilitate audience questions following their presentation.
The opening words of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet set the agenda for the probing, doubting, and questioning of life’s meaning in the play that follows. The quintessential example of Shakespearean 'high' tragedy, Hamlet is a play situated at the crossroads of literary and intellectual history: it is the culmination of the 1590s history plays but the first of the great seventeenth-century tragedies; it is the archetypal English tragedy but was the first Shakespeare play performed outside of Europe (in 1607) and was adapted into German throughout the seventeenth century.
It dramatises the fin-de-siecle anxieties crippling England as their queen lay dying without an obvious heir to the throne, but simultaneously warns of the dangers of rash political action. It is both a tragedy of family and of politics. In this Masterclass, we’ll examine some of the reasons why Hamlet has been seen as Shakespeare’s greatest achievement.
Hamlet: Looking backwards, British Library
Professor Emma Smith reads Hamlet as a play obsessed with retrospection, repetition and the theatre of the past.
The lost Hamlet play
The lost Hamlet play that predates Shakespeare's version.
An historical compendium of the mutability of fortune and honour
A previously unnoticed reference to Hamlet – possibly one of the earliest in existence – is in a manuscript held by the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Thomas Speght's edition of The Workes of Chaucer
Thomas Speght's edition of The Workes of Chaucer is the earliest known reference to Hamlet.
Shakespeare’s First Folio, State Library NSW
The First Folio was published in 1623, 8 years after Shakespeare’s death. Apart from the Bible, this volume is now considered the most influential book ever published in the English language.
- Shakespeare in Quatro, British Library
About Dr David McInnis
Dr David McInnis is an Associate Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Melbourne.
He is author of Mind-Travelling and Voyage Drama in Early Modern England (Palgrave, 2013), editor of Dekker’s Old Fortunatus for the Revels Plays series (Manchester UP, 2019), and is finalising a monograph on Shakespeare and lost plays. With Roslyn L. Knutson and Matthew Steggle, he is founder and co-editor of the Lost Plays Database.
He has also edited a number of books, including Lost Plays in Shakespeare’s England (Palgrave, 2014; co-edited with Steggle) and a sequel volume, Loss and the Literary Culture of Shakespeare’s Time (Palgrave 2019; co-edited with Knutson and Steggle); Travel and Drama in Early Modern England: The Journeying Play (Cambridge UP, 2018; co-edited with Claire Jowitt); and Tamburlaine: A Critical Reader (Arden Early Modern Drama Guides, 2020). In 2016 he was jointly awarded the Australian Academy of the Humanities’ Max Crawford Medal (granted to Australian early-career researchers for outstanding scholarly achievement in the humanities).
His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC, and elsewhere.
10 Great Books: a Melbourne Masterclass
The Faculty of Arts proudly presents the book club to end all book clubs: 10 Great Books, a Melbourne Masterclass. Each month, hear leading academics and experts give their take on a text that has shaped the way we see the world.
We ask the big questions about how our selected books captured the zeitgeist and shifted the culture. The ten diverse texts will become our window into politics, art, love, death, and everything in between. Now in its seventh year, 10 Great Books has traversed the broad history of the written word, exploring great novels, non-fiction, plays, poetry, pamphlets and more.
Visit the 10 Great Books website for this year's program and speaker information.