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Transformation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet Storyline in I. McEwan’s novel “Nutshell”

Liberal Arts in Russia. 2020. Vol. 9. No. 2. Pp. 133-141.
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Ishimbaeva G. G.
Bashkir State University
32 Zaki Validi Street, 450076 Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia


The article is devoted to the study of the transformation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet storyline in I. McEwan’s novel “Nutshell”. The Shakespearean code of the title and the novel plot, the poetical and philosophical basis, the structure of the narrative, the problematics, the pattern of the main characters images, the development of action, the culmination and the precedent text and the novel denouement were subjected to comparative analysis. The author investigates how the Shakespearean text “appears” in McEwan’s narrative. In addition to the epigraph and plot, these are an allusion to the dramatic form of “Hamlet” and to the episode “The Mousetrap”, the only direct Shakespearean quote (from “Richard II”), the mention of the Shakespeare’s coat of arms, “Danish” trace, plot correspondence to the main line of the Hamlet tragedy. The main McEwan’s characters (an unborn nameless baby, his father John, mother Trudy and Uncle Claude) act as counterparts for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ghost, Gertrude and Claudius. The situational similarity to Shakespeare’s tragedy is brought up in a novel, the narrator of which is the embryo, to the grotesque. The ties established between two men, one woman and her son, London residents at the beginning of the 21st century, correspond to the matrix of Shakespearean tragedy. Due to the change in the chronotope and the characters of the heroes, the transformation of the Hamlet story takes place. The plot loses its tragic heroic spirit and deep philosophical meaning, The triumph of legality in Shakespeare’s tragedy is opposed by chaos, crowning Ian McEwan novel, which acquires all the qualities of a palimpsest. The author concludes that “Nutshell” is an original author’s text where individual storylines and images of “Hamlet” are manifested. It is a crime romance novel written over Shakespeare’s high tragedy, deglorified Hamlet.


  • • comparative analysis
  • • sense evolvement of the novel
  • • McEwan
  • • Shakespeare
  • • Hamlet
  • • precedent text
  • • plot transformation
  • • palimpsest
  • • deglorification


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