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David Hume

“There are more things n heaven and Earth than dreamt of in your philosophy” (Shakespeare, 211). This quote from William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark presents quite an idea. It suggests that in our modern philosophy we have not even began to scratch the surface of what causes the nature of things around us. Our philosophy is centered on the idea of cause and effect. Whether a person realizes it, every standpoint that they argue from is based on a cause and/or its effect. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this, but most people don’t bother to analyze what the true connection is between a cause and it’s effect. David Hume does an outstanding job of presenting a point of view that many people do not consider at all. He asks what is this connection and what makes us impose this connection immediately. If all of our findings are based on causes and their effects, and yet, we do not completely understand the connection between the latter, then how can we presume to hold our finding absolutely certain? Maybe this is partly what Shakespeare was hinting at in the aforementioned quote. Hume’s exploration of the matter of cause and effect is an excellent tool for use in understanding the possibilities and limitations of our “matter of fact” knowledge.

Hume begins his paper by pointing out that humans are essentially ignorant to the world around them. Everything that we understand is based on someone else’s findings or research. Hume points out that on his own, with no input or previous experience, Adam would not have been able to look at the ocean and say “Gee, I could be suffocated by that water.” Though we now know through experience that fire can burn us and water can drown us, Hume suggests that we should try to rid ourselves of the ignorance that pertains to what is the relationship between cause and effect. He accurately points out that anytime that we think we truly understand the nature of an object, we are just describing that object with as much detail and precision as we have accessible to us. This idea is interesting because it leads one to question whether our most valuable truths in science are in fact, viable.

In science classes, instructors stress the importance of determining causation. The modern scientific method allows for many ways to describe every imaginable characteristic of something.

Prologue to King Lear – The Enigma of Shakespeare

Prologue to King Lear – The Enigma of Shakespeare

Only a small percentage of the plays (some seven hundred) written during the Golden Age of Elizabethan drama (1590-1610) survive into print (Nolan 30). Popular drama in the 1580s existed as no more than the street professions of clowns and jugglers performing the occasional dramatic interlude (Nolan 35). As with the “bohemian” and “hippie” youth movements in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other American cities during the sixties, bands of reckless youth with working-class and college educations invaded the London urban underworld and street culture in the latter half of the sixteenth century, living mostly by their own wits and talents. In their early careers, they wrote for local actors of street plays, much like the early Beatles, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson and Buddy Holly wrote material for other more popular performers in Liverpool and Nashville before they received their big break in the business (Rinehart). Employing the vagabond actors and performers living in the poorer back streets of London, they kindled an age of dramatic art that blazed for one single twenty-year episode, leaving only a few names like Shakespeare etched in the minds of middle-class London merchants and consumers of that age (“Elizabethan London”).

As Elizabethan drama blazed only briefly, few intellectuals paid specific attention to the plays during the years of their performance (Folgeroy); the critics of the time scoffed at them (Hall 2: 126). Future scholars of drama appreciated the Elizabethan era only as they were raking over the ashes of a vanished art form (Ardath, “Searching”). Even Shakespeare had no candid biographer to chronicle the impor…

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Mute Cybelines: Shakespeare’s Women. Narr. Diana Riggs. Dir. Anthony Hale.

2 episodes. PBS. WEBA, Boston. 26-27 Oct. 1985.

Nolan, Paul. “The Nature of Elizabethan Drama.” Shakespeare Quarterly

14.3-4 (1986): 29-45.

Riggs, Diana, narr. Mute Cybelines: Shakespeare’s Women. Dir. Anthony Hale. 2 episodes. PBS. WEBA, Boston. 26-27 Oct. 1985.

Rinehart, Thomas. Personal interview. 27 Feb. 1990.

Recome, Robert. “Re: Biography: Shakespeare.” Online posting. 6 July 1999. shak-L. Shaksper: The Global Electronic Conference. 27 June 1999.

Smith, Logan Pearsall. “On Reading Shakespeare.” New York Times 20 Feb. 1989, natl. ed.: C23.

Who was Shakespeare? New York: Folger Library, [1974].

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