Inaugural Lecture: Professor Angus Gowland, 'Hamlet's Imaginations'

27 April 2023, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm

a man lies on the floor with trees behind him. he is wearing a white shirt and a black jacket and trousers

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Queenie Lee


Roberts Building
G06, Sir Ambrose Fleming LT
Gower Street, London

The inner life of Hamlet is one of the enduring mysteries of English literature.  This lecture takes Hamlet’s imagination as a way into his predicament, and thereby into some of the puzzles of the play and its legacy. It has long been recognised that the prince’s melancholy is a key feature of his characterisation, and scholars have sometimes connected this with his enigmatic intimation of having ‘that within which passes show’. But they have rarely addressed something that Shakespeare and his contemporaries knew well about melancholy – that it was a disease of the imagination. Building on this idea, the lecture explores the ways in which Shakespeare used early modern understandings of phantasy, perception and mental disturbance to draw his audience into Hamlet’s interior world, and dramatise the extraordinary powers of the melancholic imagination.

About the Speaker

Professor Angus Gowland

Professor of Intellectual History at UCL

Angus Gowland is a Professor of Intellectual History. His main research interest is in the intellectual history of early modern Europe, especially in the fields of psychology, medicine, and natural and moral philosophy. In his work on Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621-1651), he has written about early modern theories of melancholy, the ways in which these related to contemporary philosophical, religious, and political contexts, and their literary expression. He is also interested, more broadly, in early modern ideas about human nature and selfhood, and the various forms in which these were expressed.

Angus teaches courses on the history of political thought in the West from classical antiquity to the twentieth century, on ideas about human nature in the European Renaissance, on Renaissance political thought, and on the theory and practice of intellectual history.

More about Professor Angus Gowland