10 Great Books: William Shakespeare, Hamlet

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.

Dr David McInnis' presentation on Shakespeare's Hamlet (1602)
Q&A with Dr David McInnis and Associate Professor Tim Lynch

“Who's there?”

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.

Extra resources

Dr David McInnis
Dr David McInnis

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.

Learn more