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January 29, 2007

Help! What's Hamlet got to do with it?

Eliot, ''The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'' -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

<blockquote>"Disturb the Universe?
In a minute there is time"

This line really hit me. This past Wednesday, a girl from my home town area died in a car crash. She was 17 and three other 17 year olds in the car are in critical care and in comas. We always think we have more time--"in a minute" we'll do this or that. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

As far as the poem goes, does anyone understand the allusion to Hamlet? I've read it about 20 timses and still have NO idea what it's talking about.

Posted by CheraPupi at January 29, 2007 4:16 PM


I agree that the contrast between the speaker and Hamlet really helps emphasize how utterly pathetic he is. Eliot does that with other allusions in this poem too (Prufrock alludes to John the Baptist's head on a platter and then adds the mundane detail of his head growing bald.)

Posted by: Matt Henderson at February 20, 2007 9:09 PM

Thanks guys for your insights. I kinda get it now.

Posted by: Chera Pupi at January 30, 2007 10:55 AM

That is a really moving insight. It is scary to think of how fast the world can change around us, for better or for worse.

As for your question on Hamlet, I struggled with that allusion too, but I'll let you know what I think. Basically Prufrock is contrasting his character whith that of Hamlet's when he exclaims, "No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be." Sure, both characters have the personality trait of procrastination; however, this similirity only makes Prufrocks contrast even more poignant. While Hamlet is indecisive for the majority of the play, he finally acts decisively and heroically at the end. Meanwhile, Prufrock shirks from any sort of heroics. For example, he would rather be a crab than a man who is obligated to socialize with women. Basically, when he constrasts himself with Hamlet, Prufrock is emphasizing his own pathetic existence.

Posted by: EllenEinsporn at January 29, 2007 10:23 PM

I think this is a very confusing poem that could almost mean any and all things to anyone, but here's how I interpreted it. I feel like this poem is about wanting to do great things but doubting yourself. There are a lot of references to people who've done bold, daring things in either real life or literature such as Dante, Michelangelo, and John the Baptist. Hamlet was an artist with words, saying bold, abstract things without care. The speaker wishes he could be like Hamlet and pour all this beautiful poetry out of his being, but he doesn't feel like he has it in him. He'd rather urge him on to commit the grand act of avenging his father, but he's too nervous and self-conscious to do such a thing himself. There also seems to be a similarity between the speaker and Hamlet because Hamlet himself doubted his ability to avenge his father and procrastinated an awful lot just like the speaker. Procrastination! There. Maybe in the end this whole poem is just about procrastinating on getting a paper done for English class.

Posted by: MatthewHenderson at January 29, 2007 9:46 PM

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