Hamlet Context

  • Created by: eva
  • Created on: 09-03-18 14:18

Values and beliefs- linking to morality in the play


o   2 main religions at the time, Catholic and Protestant.

o   Within Hamlet Shakespeare uses elements of both:

o   Horatio and Marcellus discussing the ghost in Act 1 Scene 1

o   The actual scene with the ghost in Act 1 Scene 4 when Hamlet follows the ghost

o   “Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned” 1.4.40

o   Religious connotations of “spirit” and “damned”, when supernatural events occurred at this time the immediate response was a religious explanation (simplistic Heaven or Hell)

o   The ghost of King Hamlet appeared to be Roman Catholic, as he could be seen as being trapped in purgatory due to his sudden murder which meant he did not have time to pray and ask for forgiveness for any sins. The ghost cannot progress to his resting place until his son Hamlet has avenged him.

o   “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” 1.5.31

o   Suicide, or ”self murder,” was regarded in Protestant England at the time of Shakespeare as being the worst crime possible. Suicide was illegal to the point that a survivor of suicide would actually be condemned to death by the state, and those whose family members had killed themselves would then go to great lengths to cover up the true manner of death.

o   An example of this in Hamlet is the death of Ophelia, which is debated by the clowns at the start of Act 5 Scene 1 as they argue whether her death was accidental or intentional and covered up as she was a wealthy high status member of the court due to her Father’s position.

o   “Is she to be buried in Christian burial, when she willfully seeks her own salvation?”

o   This shows the corruption of the time and further supports Marcellus’ view that “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Moral Values

o   Hamlet is shown to have a moral compass as when he is presented with a perfect opportunity to murder Claudius and avenge his father, but decides against it as at the time Claudius is praying

o   “Am I then revenged to take him in the purging of his soul, when he is fit and seasoned for his passage?”

o   This could be seen as immoral as Hamlet is not respecting his religion as such but rather thinking of his own aims for Claudius to not reach Heaven free from the consequences of his actions but instead suffer in Hell.







Men in Elizabethan era

o   Men assumed a dominant position in the society. It was the man of the house who worked and fetched for food to keep his family alive. Apart from being the bread earner of the family, the eldest male member was the head of the house. Everyone had to obey him and do as was being


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