Sederi Yearbook 22

Sederi 22
Sederi 22 — 2012
Berta Cano Echevarría & Ana Sáez-Hidalgo
Francisco J. Borge López
ISSN 1135-7789


Keith Gregor, “Disaster and after: Hamlet as metaphor in Fin-de-Siècle Spain.” SEDERI 22 (2012): 155-169.


DOI:                                                     Download PDF



The paper explores the philosophical debates raging in Spain following naval defeat by the US in 1898 and the subsequent loss of the country’s last remaining colonies in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Facing what the national press presented as a debilitating pessimism and paralysis – a result of humiliation by a vastly superior and technologically advanced power – a group of intellectuals known as the “Generation of ‘98” launched a strident campaign aimed at rebooting the nation’s social, economic and cultural identity, in which the Spanish nation was imaginatively recast as a kind of Hamlet awaiting the arrival of Fortinbras. The various implications of the Spain-as-Hamlet trope are considered, especially in the light of the play’s minimal impact on cultural production at the turn of the century. Not the least of the paradoxes surrounding the trope is the conflicting uses to which it was put: now a metaphor for the decadence of Spanish social and political life, now a source of inspiration for the call for regeneration; now a mode of emplotting the break-up of the nation-state, now a way of framing the question of national unity.

Keywords: Shakespeare; Hamlet; Spain; Generation of ’98; national press; metaphor; emplotment.




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