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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
 It was first published in printed form in
The Start of the
 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- 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
Renaissance Humanism
 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
How does this tie into
 This limitation of human understanding is the
world in which Shakespeare places his Hamlet
 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.