TB or not TB? A comparison of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and House, M.D.

Seminar Paper, 2009

12 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents:

I. Introduction

II. Description of the TV-series House M.D., including the main characters and the plot

III. Similarities between House M.D. and Hamlet, Prince Of Denmark
a.) Lying and deception
b.) Differential diagnosis: Hamlet‘s Interior Monologues vs. The Whiteboard
c.) Acting, behaving, speaking: What is similar, what is different?

IV. Conclusion

V. List of references

I. Introduction

On first sight, to compare these two works might seem awkward, as they are so different in many obvious ways: a long-lasting TV-series checked against a written drama of some pages? Old-fashioned, mouldy language against fast- moving, expert and vulgar tongue? There are far more points of criticism you could give. But I tried to dig deeper into the linguistic and theoretical structure of both works to find possible similarities that might make the two comparable.

First, I will give a detailed description of the TV-series House, M.D. Then, I am going to examine how the topic „Lying and deception“ is dealt with in both creations. After that, I will try to check whether Hamlet‘s interior monologues are a pre-psychological treatment for himself or not.

Ultimately, the ways of acting, behaving and speaking are my aim. How much are they alike? What is different?

II. Description of the TV-series

House M.D. is a medical drama TV-series. It revolves around Dr. Gregory House, his team of diagnosticians and the obscure medical cases they have to treat at the Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital (PPTH). The main characters are:

Dr. Gregory House, played by british actor Hugh Laurie; he is the head of the diagnosis-team at the PPTH. His age within the series is not exactly known, according to his outward appearance one could guess him to be in his late fourties. His specialities are infectious diseases and nephrology. He is utterly sarcastic, a role-model of a misanthrope; never does he wear a white coat because he is not very keen of being identified as a doctor.

House only treats patients, or better cases, as he does not care about the human being behind the illness, whom could not be cured by any other practitioner before. He seems to like the challenge of beating a disease nobody else could tackle. One of his first sentences at the very beginning of the series is :“ Cerebral tumor. She‘s gonna die. Boring.“

Due to an infarction in his thigh muscles and a resulting muscular distrophy, he has to use a cane and Vicodin in order to help him overcome the lasting pain in his leg. He proverbially pops them like sweets, even admits to be addicted to them, but pretends he has no problem because: “ they let me do my job, and they take away my pain.“ Like any other doctor at he PPTH, he has to treat patients in the walk-in clinic, too. But he constantly tries to avoid this annoying duty by betting with his boss, Dr. Lisa Cuddy. He sometimes gets around it, too; that is when he is right about a patient‘s diagnosis and Cuddy is not. More often than not he nevertheless loses the bet and has to do even more hours in the ambulance.

His diagnosis team consists of:

Dr. Robert Chase, portrayed by Jesse Spencer. He is the oldest member of the House-posse; his speciality is Intensive Care Medicine. He is somewhat of a bootlicker to House; in most cases, when the team as a whole stands against an outlandish decision made by House, Chase backs down and deceives the team. It is known that his family life has been shattered. His mother was an alcoholic, and his father left the family when he was thirteen. Later in the series, House makes a remark on Chase only being in his team because his father, who is a well-known doctor himself, phones House. Chase is constantly hitting on Dr. Allison Cameron, until in season two of the series they have a one-night stand whilst she is high on drugs.

The second part of the crew is Dr. Allison Cameron, enacted by Jennifer Morrison. She impersonates the perfect archetype of the sensitive, righteous and utmostly moral do-gooder, and is not afraid of proving it whenever she can. Whilst studying, she was married to a man suffering from cancer. She knew that he was to die, but married him nevertheless; you could say though that she married him on account of this. She seems to feel attracted to persons she thinks she could help, amongst them moribund patients and House himself. House, however, put her into the team because she is pretty. Her speciality is immunology.

The final member of the posse is Dr. Eric Foreman, played by Omar Epps. He is the only african-american in House M.D., apart from one or the other patient. Moreover, he is the only one who has a criminal record, because he was caught housebreaking when he was sixteen. House makes no secret about having picked Foreman just due to that, as he needs someone with „gutter gumption“.

Foreman despises House by reason of his lack of interest in the human being behind the fascinating medical enigma. He mostly is of a completely different opinion than House is, but anyhow obeys to his decisions.

The only person in House M.D. who is not to obey his orders is Dr. Lisa Cuddy, personated by Lisa Edelstein. Dr. Cuddy is the Dean of Medicine as well as hospital administrator at the PPTH and House‘s boss. She hired him because she is convinced of his medical competence. On the other hand, she has to stop him trying to conduct some irrational or unethical therapy on a lethal patient. The regular consumer of the series will notice some kind of tension between House and her peaking in a kiss in season five. They even had a one-night stand during studies.

Lastly to be mentioned is Dr. James Wilson who is portrayed by Robert Sean Leonard. He is an oncologist at the PPTH and has his own surgery. One could consider him as a „friend“ of House. They have shared a flat, talk about personal things and sometimes House reveals a tiny bit of what is really going on inside him during their talks.

Contrariwise, he has to endure sheer endless indignity and insults from House. When living together, House regularly marauds his part of the refrigerator. House also sources his Vicodin from him, but not once thanks him in any way. Yet still Wilson is sticky to House, even if the police is trying to send House to prison due to his drug addiction.

Having introduced the main characters of House M.D., I will now briefly explain how each epsiode „works“; there is a fixed order of events every epsiode follows to: In a pre-credit scene, a regularly unknown person collapses somewhere outside the hospital (on very rare occasions within it, too) seemingly out of the blue or any equally terrible thing happens to him or her.

After the credits, House and his team are treating the patient; they are conducting several tests, take the one or other biopsis and meet again in the staff room. There, House stands in front of a whiteboard and writes down all clinical pictures, diagnoses and results they all have figured out so far.

The team employs the so-called ,differential diagnosis-method‘, meaning that everybody builds up a theory whilst the others try to either approve or deny it and find a better key to the patient‘s disease.

After a few sentences of discussion about the case, House comes up with an airtight diagnosis and commands his crew to treat the illness accordingly.


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TB or not TB? A comparison of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and House, M.D.
University of Cologne
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hamlet, prince, denmark, house
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Oliver Selzer (Author), 2009, TB or not TB? A comparison of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and House, M.D., Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/207928


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