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Religion’s Role in Hamlet

Religion’s Role in Hamlet

It is known that William Shakespeare did not follow or support any one religion. However, he evidently had a great deal of religious education. In his play, Hamlet, Shakespeare uses his knowledge of religion and culture to manipulate the reactions of the audience for which it was originally intended. This is seen by observing the way in which he exploits the Elizabethans’ confusion concerning religion, his use of conflicting cultures to evoke responses in the audience, and the significance of Hamlet’s Christian knowledge.

The time in which Shakespeare’s Hamlet was performed was one of great religious confusion for the Elizabethans. They had only recently come under Protestant rule, but they were all familiar with Catholic beliefs. Shakespeare used this knowledge to his advantage. The Ghost in Hamlet is an example of this. According to the Catholic belief system, the spirit of Hamlet’s father is in purgatory. This means that he is not harmful but merely doing penance ‘till the foul crimes done in [his] days of nature are burnt and purg’d away.’ (I. v. 12-13) This is necessary because he was ‘cut off even in the blossoms of [his]sin.’ (I. v. 76) This attitude was not unknown to the Elizabethans. However, according to Protestant beliefs, purgatory did not exist, and any ghost was evil. This is reflected in Horatio’s scholarly concern that the ghost ‘bodes some strange eruption to our state.’ (I. i. 69) Because of this confusion, not knowing whether Old Hamlet’s ghost was ‘a spirit of health or goblin damn’d,’ (I. iv. 40) the Elizabethan audience would have supported Hamlet in his choice to be sure before killing Claudius, his father’s murderer. This shows how Shakespeare uses the audience’s uncertainty to manipulate their response to the play.

Shakespeare also uses conflicting culture to control the audience’s reactions. Hamlet is set in Denmark, but written for an English audience. According to the Danish tradition of the blood feud, the King’s murder requires vengeance, and filial duty dictates that Hamlet ‘was born to set it right.’ (I. v. 189) However, to the Christian audience, murder for any reason violated the highest Christian ethic — love. This includes love for one’s enemies. Therefore the blood feud conflicted with the audience’s Christian views. By juxtaposing Danish culture with Christian morals, Shakespeare again persuades the Elizabethan audience to have a certain reaction to the play.

Free Hamlet Essays: Foils of Hamlet

Foils of Hamlet

In the classic play Hamlet by William Shakespeare is a work that has and will test time. [SS – 1] In this piece of work there are many characters that contribute as foils. A foil is a minor character in a literary work who by the similarities and differences in what the character does (compared to a more important character) or by simple [sic] being there for another character to talk to which helps the audience understand a more important character. [SS – 1] There are many foils of the main character, Hamlet. Some of these foils of the main character include Hamlet and Ophelia, Hamlet and Horatio, and [sic]

There are many reasons why Ophelia is a foil for Hamlet. If Ophelia was not in the play Hamlet would not have a love and there really wouldn’t be a love story in the play. They are both basically the same social class and the same age. Eventhough [sic] Hamlet is a prince, Ophelia is close to him in social class because she is the daughter of Polonius, councilor to the king. They are both in the upper class. They both love each other. On the other hand, some of the differences are Hamlet is male and Ophelia is female. Also Hamlet is a little [more] on the crazy side than Ophelia. The importance of Ophelia in the story is to have a love for Hamlet and to have Hamlet talk to someone lovingly. This is why Ophelia is a foil of Hamlet. [How does “having Hamlet talk to someone lovingly” relate to the theme of the play (or to the characterization of Hamlet)?]

Another foil of Hamlet is Horatio. Some similarities of Hamlet and Horatio are they are the same age and the same social class. Other similarities are that they are fellow students and basically best friends. Throughout the play there is no one closer to Hamlet than Horatio probably because they are such good friends. In the play Hamlet talks the most to Horatio which would be why he is considered one of Hamlet’s foils. Some of the differences are that Horatio is sane and Hamlet is considered crazy. Basically, that is the only difference between the two. The importance of Horatio in the play is to be a best friend who Hamlet can come to and talk about what is going on in his life.

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