Longing to Stay Tied: Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet as a Work of Creative Criticism
Literary critics turn to fiction when they cannot directly find something in fact. Maggie O’Farrell’s 2020 novel Hamnet feels borne out of the same impulse: to find the connection between the death of Hamnet Shakespeare and the writing of Hamlet; to gratify our wish to know that William Shakespeare did grieve the loss of his son and wrote this immortal play as a memorial to him. Long fascinated with the tale of Hamnet’s death and his resurrection in Hamlet, O’Farrell had attempted a novel several times but found it impossible to create Shakespeare as a character. She had to approach him indirectly: Hamnet refers to him only as “the Latin tutor,” “her husband,” and “the father,” presenting him through his family ties. This artful move increases the critical pleasures of reading Hamnet; it creates the feeling of first experiencing Hamlet, illuminating moments we’d forgotten or never even noticed. This essay reads Hamnet as a kind of creative criticism, not to presume O’Farrell’s goals as a novelist so much as to describe my own experiences as a reader. While absorbed in her storytelling, I witnessed novel-writing as a desire to know, and I marveled in her means of getting close—and getting me close—to Shakespeare.
"Longing to Stay Tied: Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet as a Work of Creative Criticism,"
Comparative Drama: Vol. 57:
1, Article 2.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/compdr/vol57/iss1/2