Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, is a tragic play set in Denmark during the early seventeenth century. It was written at the same time the Bible was being translated by King James. Like the Bible, Hamlet is full of problems that all humans experience. These problems are best seen through the internal struggle of Prince Hamlet, the source of Hamlet’s internal struggle, which is the direct contrast of his Christian education versus Denmark’s barbaric customs. I agree that Hamlet is a tale of Christian morality. There are numerous religious links throughout the play.
In Hamlet’s first soliloquy, the audience is given a sense of his morals and beliefs. He mentions ‘the Everlasting… had fixed his canon “gainst self-slaughter”, wishing that suicide was not forbidden by God. As the play moves on and Hamlet comes to realize that his father, the King, was brutally murdered his anger leads him to seek revenge. His quest to murder Claudius seems justified to some, as Claudius unlawfully murdered the King. Shakespeare’s audiences at the time perhaps disagreed with the saying ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Therefore, audiences of the play follow Hamlet’s internal battle as to whether it’s the “right” thing to do, to kill the king. Religion is the inspiration for Claudius’ attempt to pray for forgiveness in scene three, “a brother’s murder. . . my stronger guilt”, and particular religious beliefs stop Hamlet from killing him in the same scene.
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Although, one could argue that Hamlet was being cowardly. Perhaps, he wants Claudius’s soul to be heavy with sin. He seeks self-satisfaction in killing him; hence, he is not really doing it for justice. I believe Hamlet’s lack of action is based more so on his father’s orders to ‘taint, not thy mind’, which is what Hamlet is trying to do, he is trying to clear his mind first before he takes any more action against Claudius, this appears to be a difficult thing for Hamlet to do considering his utter distaste for the man. All the beliefs about the ghost are based on religion or at least religion-related superstition. Before Hamlet meets the ghost, his language has links to the devil, ‘the dram of evil’. In addition, the setting is ‘very cold’ and the ‘air bites shrewdly’ Instead of defining “the true nature of ghosts for his audiences,” Shakespeare “incorporates within his play both Catholic and Protestant views of the Ghost and also presents a third perspective on the Ghost, one steeped in folkloric tradition”.
He “expects his audience to perceive the Ghost for what it is, a diabolical manifestation on a mission to trick Hamlet into forfeiting his soul”; the play’s devastating conclusion “supports this interpretation” In “exhorting Hamlet to commit murder through an act of revenge, the Ghost plays most foully for Hamlet’s soul”. Also, the fact that the ghost appears only at the witching hour could imply that it is an evil spirit and ‘the work of the devil’. The counterargument is that “the Ghost tells the truth surrounding the circumstances of old Hamlet’s death,” as corroborated by Claudius’ private “confession of guilt”; but “a devil is capable of telling the truth if it enables him to achieve his goal” The problem with Gertrude’s marriage to Claudius being incestuous is grounded in religion – it was sinful to marry Claudius, her husband’s brother. Gertrude eventually turns from Claudius in large part for this reason.
Ophelia’s madness, death and burial are affected by religion. ‘God be at your table’, this shows us she’s quite sincerely pious and most lines she says have religious undertones. According to Gertrude, she sings bits of hymns as she’s drowning. She isn’t allowed a full Christian funeral and burial. As suicide is evidently forbidden in Elsinore, and her death was questionable. Laertes decides to toss religion out in favour of taking revenge on Hamlet, but in the end takes it back on board, exchanging forgiveness with Hamlet. It’s Hamlet’s reconciling of God’s power with his own which enables him to get on with life, and death, in Act Four. By the end of the play, the sinners have all punished a la Christian values! The Queen drinks the poisoned drink, therefore incest is punished. Significantly Claudius dies before Hamlet. Before wounding the king Hamlet says, ‘venom to thy work’, he finally achieves revenge, although the king must be doubly punished, to pay for his second crime in causing Gertrude’s death. Shakespeare gives Hamlet the last word; he calls the king an ‘incestuous murderous damned Dane’ just before he dies. Hamlet is clearly a play of Christian principles and morals.