Download Hamlet Background Notes

yes no Was this document useful for you?
   Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the workof artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Document related concepts
 The teaching of the Church was that since the Fall that part of the cosmos had
been polluted by human sin, and was a cesspool for evil. Almost like hell. The
earth, far from being a comforting shelter from the infinite, was a prison.
 The early humanists in England were teachers. They shared a dream: that
learning would make those who ruled rule more just; more generously.
 Another important effect of the humanists was their emphasis on the
power that individuals had to shape themselves and those around them
through education.
 Machiavelli’s approach to the art of government: rather than
supporting the indiscriminate cruelty and deceit of rulers, Machiavelli
viewed political stability as a ruler’s foremost consideration, believing that
with this end in mind a prince must be able to be cruel, deceitful,
generous, or honest as need requires.
 Traditional beliefs often held that untimely death was a punishment for sin
and therefore was a thing to be feared.
 By Shakespeare's time, humanism and revival of classical philosophy resulted
in the growing influence of alternative ways of thinking about death.
 Hamlet in particular explores the idea of death as an “undiscovered country”
as opposed to the clearly defined territory of medieval Christian doctrine.
 As a subject for dramatists, death became a more complicated issue than it
had been in the earlier morality plays. Instead of representing death simply as
a hooded figure who would call upon an Everyman or Mankind to account for
his life, Shakespeare and other writers explored the many intellectual
possibilities (and controversies) raised by new ways of thinking about morality.
 There is a range of belief onstage between a degree of skepticism and deep
belief in supernatural forces; there would have been at least as wide a range in the
audience that watched the play.
 Some in Shakespeare’s audience would have believed that ghosts were real.
 Ghosts seem to have some Catholics, some Protestant, and some pagan
 All supernatural agents were regarded with the greatest suspicion, for they
were far more likely to be the agents of the Devil than of God.
 The prevalence of death imagery in medieval artwork may seem obsessive, but this cultural
phenomenon was vital part of medieval society’s attempt to comprehend a very real danger.
 In an era with high mortality rates, mass death due to disease, and little knowledge of
medicine and hygiene, death was an inescapable mystery.
 It is not surprising that the plague was considered to be a sign of God’s displeasure.
 An interesting side-effect of the plague was the belief that death was the great leveler:
your time would come whether you were a prince or a pauper – a fact that Hamlet was
particularly aware of.