Context in Hamlet

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  • Created by: Zainab
  • Created on: 05-10-12 20:45

Context in Hamlet

  • Claudius' breaking of the commandment, ordering men to work on Sabbath would convey to the audience that Claudius is a machiavellian, pragmatic, modern king, who was prepared to defy conventional morality.
  • Claudius' marriage to Gertrude would have been regarded as incestuous and unlawful by the Church in Elizabethan times. Henry the Eighth (Queen Elizabeth's father) divorced Catherine of Aragon, believing he had sinned by marrying his brother's widow.
  • No-one at court is wearing mourning clothes, except Hamlet. In Shakespeare's time, the country would wear black clothes for at least following the death of a king.
  • The "canon 'gainst self-slaughter" is a commandment, which forbids all murder, including suicide. Unlike Claudius, Hamlet feels bound by his religion.
  • Shakespeare chooses Wittenberg as the place of Hamlet's place of study, where Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation.
  • For the Elizabethans, the garden was a symbol of order, discipline and beauty. Gardens need constant care if they are not to return to a state of primitive wilderness.
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Context in Hamlet

  • The Ghost said that he was murdered without recieving last rites which would have absolved him of his sins. Roman Catholics believed that souls can be purified of ordinary human sins through a period of suffering in Purgatory and then enter Heaven. However, Protestants did not believe in the idea of Purgatory, and so would have regarded this as proof of the ghost being a devil.
  • In Shakespeare's globe, the ghost would be calling from the cellarage, an area underneath the stage.
  • Shakespeare's Globe company was engaged in rilvalry with other theatre companies, including one employing boy actors. The boys were so popular in London, that some adult companies had to go on tour to find audiences.
  • Hamlet calls Polonius a "fishmonger". Ophelia's use of the word "commerce" triggers the prostitution assocuation. When Hamlet advises Ophelia to go to a unnery, he may be suggesting that she enters a convent to escape the corrupt world of Elsinore, or believing she has sold herself already, suggesting she work in a brothel, "nunnery" being Elizabethan slang for such a place.
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Context in Hamlet

  • Claudius says that England "pays homage to us". England was, at that time, forced to pay taxes to Denmark.
  • The flowers Ophelia has are symbolic; fennel=flattery, columbine=adultery, rue=repentance, daisy=broken hearts, violet=fidelity.
  • The Church forbade suicides Christian funeral rites and burial in consecrated grounds until the 19th century. They were usually buried at crossroads with a stake through their body.
  • The skull is a special type of emblem known as 'memento mori'; a deliberate reminder of death.
  • Sons did not automatically succeed their fathers in Denmark.
  • In classical Roman and Greek Literature, suicide was not viewed as a sin but as a heroic way for someone to end his or her life.
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Sophie Grierson


This is very useful thank you

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