The Hamlet Vocation of Coleridge and Wordsworth

The Hamlet Vocation of Coleridge and Wordsworth

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225 pp

"The Hamlet Vocation of Coleridge and Wordsworth gave me new insights into many things, from Shakespeare and Schiller to Yeats and Freud; but most, it gave me a new understanding of the poetry and of the pain out of which it was so often forged in the lives of two poets whom I have been teaching for thirty years but never saw so clearly before."—Walter H. Evert

"Martin Greenberg's book is splendid. Think of it as literary history or dramatic portraiture or a meditation on the dilemmas of the modern mind: it affects one deeply through its firmness of thought and modesty of tone. The prose is beautiful—at once strong and pure. The treatment is acutely critical and warmly protective. And in the end it becomes clear that this is a book not only about Wordsworth and Coleridge but also about the many readers yet unborn for and to whom they spoke."—Irving Howe

Different as they were as men and poets, Coleridge and Wordsworth were united by their common struggle with the Hamlet problem—the problem of the reflective mind divorced from effective life and action, of mind parted from nature, spirituality from vitality. In this arresting study of the lives and works of two great Romantic poets, Martin Greenberg shows how aptly this definition of the Hamlet problem characterizes both Coleridge and Wordsworth, no matter how dissimilar they were in other ways.

For Coleridge, the Hamlet vocation of thought and meditation meant his personal failure to act, a falling out of human life. For Wordsworth, however, the Hamlet vocation meant rising above human life to sublime visionary heights. Yet the danger was the same in both cases: loss of life, of the common life of man and women in nature.

In light of this shared problem, Greenberg elaborates the consequences for each—in their poetry, their friendship, and their growth as artists. The Hamlet Vocation of Coleridge and Wordsworth leads to a deeper understanding of familiar poetry and illuminates our modern spirituality and the self-haunting artistic mind of modern times.