understanding hamlet

Study Day, Saturday 16 November 2019, 2.00-5.30 p.m.

Price: £50.00 / £45.00 students. Tea and coffee provided.
Venue: Stapleford Granary, Bury Road, Stapleford, Cambridge CB22 5BP
Bookings now open.

CAMcard holders can book at the student price. Please bring proof of status to the event. Free place for a teacher bringing a group of 5+ students. Maximum 10 students. Please email us to arrange this: info@literaturecambridge.co.uk.

Join us for an intensive afternoon of lectures and a seminar on Hamlet, Shakespeare’s great tragedy of grief, revenge, and madness. Two leading Cambridge scholars will explore some new ideas about the play. Whether you know Hamlet well, or are coming to it for the first time, this study day will deepen your knowledge of this remarkable work.

Both lecturers are excellent, accessible speakers. You can talk to them over a cup of tea during the afternoon, and we finish the day with a round-table seminar. A great chance to revisit, or discover, the best of university teaching.

Fred Parker.jpg

Fred Parker
Lecture: Hamlet: ‘there’s the rub’.

Hamlet asks the players for ‘smoothness’ in their performance of tragedy. What might this mean, and why, in this play, is it so hard to achieve? Exploring this question will take us to the idea of the hero, the corruption of the body, and the ways in which words fall short.

Dr Fred Parker is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature and a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. Faculty Website.

adrian poole Oct2016 2. MB.jpg

Adrian Poole
Lecture: Playing for time in Hamlet

This not a phrase that Shakespeare could have known – 'to play for time' – yet he would have recognised and liked it, for it raises questions that are central to his plays about what makes for 'a good time', not least in this great play about a youth confronting a time that is 'out of joint'.

Professor Adrian Poole is Emeritus Professor of English Literature and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Website.

Mark Rylance in  Hamlet , 2000. Source: British Library website.

Mark Rylance in Hamlet, 2000. Source: British Library website.


The day ends with a round-table seminar in which everyone can participate.


The most important reading is Hamlet in any good edition (such as Cambridge University Press or Arden edition)

Secondary reading is not essential, but if you wish to read further, we suggest:

Paul Cantor, Shakespeare: Hamlet (Cambridge University Press, Shakespeare and Politics series, 2004)

Adrian Poole, Tragedy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2005)


Maxine Peake as Hamlet

Maxine Peake as Hamlet

Plot summary of Hamlet, British Library website.
Kiernan Ryan article on Hamlet and Revenge, British Library website.
Emma Smith article on Hamlet Looking Backwards, British Library website.