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Critically Discuss The Issue Of Religion In Hamlet

1884 words - 8 pages

Shakespeare is thought to have written Hamlet in 1600-01, it is thought to be one of his greatest plays and the most successful whilst he was alive. “Richard Burbage was almost certainly the first Hamlet and many allusions to the play vouch for its contemporary success” (Wells, 68). It is based on a lost play known as the Ur-Hamlet. This play can be seen to be very personal to Shakespeare as it was written one year after Shakespeare’s own father’s death. Also the main character, Hamlet has the same name as Shakespeare’s own son who had died five years previously. Another reason as to why Hamlet is so interesting to read or to go see performed on the stage is because ...view middle of the document...

This allowed Henry to divorce his wife Catherine and re-marry his second wife, Anne Boleyn.This idea of marrying your brother’s wife is played upon by Shakespeare in the play. The idea of incest runs throughout the play and is frequently insinuated in the story by Hamlet and the ghost, most obviously in dialogue about Gertrude and Claudius, the former brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are married within two months of King Hamlet’s death. From the very first scene in which Hamlet appears he shows exactly how he feels about the quick re-marriage of his mother to his uncle. He shows his displeasure through the double meaning of the word “son” (Hamlet, I.II.67). Hamlet also mocks his mothers wedding later on in the same scene with Horatio.“Thrift, thrift, Horatio, the funeral baked meatsDid coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.” (Hamlet, I.II.179-180).The entire audience would have been able to make the connection between the story of Gertrude’s remarriage and King Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. This would have been a risky thing to do as Elizabeth I was on the throne, Henry’s daughter. If she had disapproved of this mockery then the playwright could have been put into the Tower of London. During this era it was thought that the monarch was appointed by God this theory was also known as the Divine Right of Kings.The theory of the Divine Right of Kings was Shakespeare’s “official belief in respect of English politics” (Wain, 24). This theory held that, since church and state were affiliated together, and the coronation service was a sacrament, therefore an anointed king could not be opposed except at the expense of mortal sin. Even though Shakespeare’s official belief was in divine right he has avowed his belief in vigorous language throughout his work. But here is the complexity of it all as he is also the only one to scorn it the idea of divine kingship with such a fierce irony. His work is full of unforgettable statements of the belief in the divinity of kingship. But these statements tend to be made by men who have no right, in the sight of God or man, to be making them. For example, in Act 4 Scene 5 Claudius faces Hamlet’s excited violence with a calm response:“Let him go, Gertrude; do not fear our person:There's such divinity doth hedge a king,That treason can but peep to what it would,Acts little of his will.” (Hamlet, IV.V.123-126).Yet Claudius is a murderer and usurper, who started the whole chain of evil which finally cost both Hamlet and his own their lives. This Divine Right of Kings caused problems for Hamlet as it could be seen that Claudius was appointed by God to be King. The very fact that he was on the throne meant he was under this line of kingship. Thus if Hamlet killed Claudius he would be going against God’s will. And would be committing a mortal sin.Another mortal sin which is debated in the play is the idea of suicide....

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