Othering Beings and Being’s Other: A Comparative Study of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis in Terms of Levinasian Ethical Self

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics, School of Literature and Humanities, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran

2 Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics, School of Literature and Humanities, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran


The renaissance and the postmodern era provide two interesting periods for discussion. The renaissance can be viewed as the early modern period prefiguring the contemporary world. Thus, the two aforesaid periods can be connected to one another. This comparative study discusses two works: one from the early modern period and the other from the postmodern world. Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1603) and Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis (2000) provide the material for a discussion on the treatment of the Other as conceived by the philosophy of Levinas in his Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence (1978). In the spirit of brevity, the central events of the plays and the most suggestive dialogue are discussed. One of the most pertinent concepts in Levinas’ ideology is responsibility which is required for the transcendence leading to subjectivity. It is concluded that while in Shakespeare the unethical mostly die, thus ending their torment, the fate that awaits Kane’s characters is much more dire; they are left battered and bruised, corporeal shells of Beings, paralyzed in time and unable to transcend Being towards the Other. As such, it is seen that the postmodern treats unethical Beings much harsher compared to the early modern.


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