‘Sore distraction’: Hamlet, Augustine and Time

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This article argues that Shakespeare's Hamlet is shaped by Augustinian concepts of time. Like Augustine, Hamlet laments the 'sore distraction' of temporal existence, highlighting the painful manner in which chronological time undermines being. I nevertheless argue that Hamlet moves away from this conception of time, following Augustine as he comes to see time not solely as the destroyer of meaning, but as a means of encountering this meaning. By the end of the play, Hamlet is living in messianic time, a temporal mode that reformulates time in relation to eternity, thereby allowing him to accept his own incompletion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381–396
Number of pages16
JournalLiterature and Theology
Issue number4
Early online date28 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Augustine
  • Hamlet
  • Shakespeare
  • Temporality
  • Time


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