"Hamlet, Part Eight, The Revenge" or, Sampling Shakespeare in a Postmodern World

Hamlet is a prime source for allusions and references, or to use postmodern terms, paratexts, or samplings in recent films. Perhaps no other of Shakespeare's plays has been ransacked for lines, scenes, plot devices, or oblique but telling references as often or as completely in films of the last two decades as Hamlet. In these films, of which Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Gildernstern Are Dead is perhaps the fullest example, the text of Hamlet becomes a kind of "raw material" that both has meaning in itself and also derives meaning from its rearticulation within a new form. This essay examines the effect of such borrowings from Hamlet and argues that Hamlet can become a problematic literary icon, which disrupts through the contrasts it establishes.