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Hamlet Overview Some History of Hamlet Hamlet was written during the first part of the seventeenth century (probably in 1600 or 1601). It was probably performed first in July of 1602. It was first published in printed form in 1603. The Start of the Renaissance The Fall of Constantinople in 1453 Constantinople, once part of Greece, was overthrown by the Ottoman empire. Greek scholars fled from their homeland and took refuge in Italy. These Greek scholars brought along with them classical Greek and Latin texts, as well as their knowledge of these classics. These scholars ultimately taught everything they knew to the Italians. The Renaissance started in Italy and eventually spread throughout Europe. About the Renaissance Along with these new classics came new ideas and beliefs such as the educational and political ideal called (in latin) humanitas. Humanitas- The idea that all of the capabilities and virtues unfamiliar to human beings should be studied and developed to their fullest extent. Renaissance Humanism Created a new interest in human experience, and also an enormous optimism about the potential range of human understanding For the humanist, the purpose of using reason was to lead to a better understanding of how to act, and their fondest hope was that the coordination of action and understanding would lead to great benefits for society as a whole A breakdown of Humanists Advocated reason and tolerance Stressed Individualism- the importance of one man and his thoughts Regarded man’s nature as essentially good. Renaissance Humanism cont. As the Renaissance spread to other countries in the 16th and 17th Centuries, a more doubtful view of humanism developed, stressing the limitations of human understanding, rather than the capabilities. How does this tie into Hamlet? This limitation of human understanding is the world in which Shakespeare places his Hamlet characters. Hamlet is a character faced with the difficult task of correcting an injustice that he can never have sufficient knowledge of. Shakespeare was able to take an unremarkable revenge story and relate it to some of the most fundamental themes and problems of the Renaissance. One Last Note While Hamlet is fond of pointing out questions that cannot be answered because they concern supernatural and metaphysical matters, the play as a whole chiefly demonstrates the difficulty of knowing the truth about other peopletheir guilt or innocence, their motivations, their feelings, their relative states of sanity or insanity.