Hamlet, King Lear, and post-Holocaust literature : the heroism of survival / Nira Fleischmann.
Hamlet and King Lear may be envisioned as a microcosm of the absurdity of existence, as can the literature of the concentration camps. Both worlds mirror extremity, atrocity, and simultaneously the courage to survive at times when traditional forms of heroism are revealed as meaningless. To present my interpretation of Hamlet and Lear as survivors in such a universe, I have found it relevant to compare them with other heroic survivors. I intend to support this approach to the plays by suggesting that the more conventional critical tendency toward meliorative interpretations springs from the yearning and demand for heroes of exalted, even of divine, stature. This healing philosophy is also applied to our tragic literature. But I would question the widespread assumption of the existence of knowledge born of the suffering so deeply embedded in the fabric of Hamlet and King Lear, of any concluding sense of justice, of any human 'rising' or divine 'convergence'. Consequently, I do not interpret Hamlet or Lear as being heroic in the traditional sense. Their heroism, rather, lies exclusively in their endurance of an atrocious situation in an Absurd universe. As the plays unfold, Hamlet and Lear manifest their heroism by surviving; by their determination and courage to be as humans, where the most they can do is to "find quarrel in a straw." (Abstract shortened by UMI.)
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