What Is The Role Of Religion In Hamlet

Religion In Hamlet is a controversial debate. Following are some aspects which indicates the the role of religion in hamlet.

What Is The Role Of Religion In Hamlet

Eight Deaths in the Play

In Hamlet, eight people are killed, not counting Hamlet’s father; of the two families concerned in the play, those of King Hamlet and Polonius, both are wiped out. Eight deaths are enough to attract attention and to make us wonder if the essential thing has been said when the play is called the ultimate tragedy of man. The question that arises is whether these deaths are a real part of the tragedy of a character or whether Shakespeare killed so many persons just from the force of habit. The characters of Hamlet mid the inner experience that he undergoes are indeed drawn at length and with great subtlety: never­theless we are dealing here with no individual tragedy of character but something that is more like religious drama. This means that He able to relate the dramatic situation to its religious or philosophical background.

Victims of Evil

Why do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die, and why do Ophelia and Laertes die? Are these disasters casual by-products of the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind? Or are they necessary pail of a firm structure?

Each of these disasters can be credited to something that Hamlet has done or failed to do, and we can say that each reveals something more of Hamlet’s character. But we must see something more than this. Shakespeare tells before us a group of young people, none of them evil, one of them at least entirely righteous, (which Shakespeare brings frequently and vividly before our minds), all of them brought to death because of its evil influences. Time after time either in some significant patterning or with some phrase pregnant with irony he makes us realizes that these people are partners in disaster. Neither here nor in Greek drama have we anything to do with characters that are puppets in the hands of Fate. In both, we see something of the power of gods or the design of Providence: but these do not override or reduce to unimportant the natural working of individual character. In Hamlet, Shakespeare draws a complete character, not for the comparatively barren purpose of creating a Hamlet for our admiration, but in order to show how he, like the others, is inevitably engulfed by the evil that has been set in motion, and how he himself becomes the cause of further ruin. The conception which unites these eight persons in one coherent catastrophe may be said to be this: evil, once started on its course, will so work as to overthrow impartially the good and the bad.)

Gertrude’s fear-provoking Part in the Tragedy

Claudius, the arch-villain, driven into crime after crime, meets at last what is manifestly religious justice. At the contrary pole stands Ophelia, reveled to corruption though uncorrupted, but pitifully destroyed as the chain of evil uncoils itself. Then Gertrude, one of Shakespeare’s most tragic characters : she is the first, as Laertes is the last, to be ruined by Claudius ; but while Laertes dies in forgiveness and reconciliation, no such gentle influence alleviates Gertrude’s end. After her own sin, and as a direct consequence of it, everything that she holds dear is blasted. Her part in this tragedy is indeed a frightening one. She is no Claudius, recklessly given to crime, devoid of any pure or disinterested motive. Her love for her son shines through every line she speaks; this, and her affection for Ophelia, shows the Gertrude that might have been, if a mad passion had not swept her into the arms of Claudius. By this one sin, she condemned herself to endure all its devastating consequences: her son driven “mad”, killing Polonius, denouncing her and her crime in cruel terms that she cannot rebut ; Ophelia driven out of her senses and into her grave ; and so on.

Facts You Must Know The Aspect of Religion In Hamlet

 Something Bigger Than a Secular Drama

The manner of Gertrude’s death reminds us of what the Ghost had said: “Leave her to heaven.” But if we are to see the hand of divine intervention in her death, we must see it in the death of Polonius also. A “casual murder”, A “reaction and bloody action”? Certainly; and remind us by all means blame Hamlet, for it, as also for the callous­ness with which he sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their doom.. In fact, Hamlet was not like this; that is what he has become. The dramatist does indeed direct us to regard the killing of Polonius in two aspects at once : it is a sudden, unpremeditated attack made by Hamlet; and at the same time it is     of     Heaven I do repent ; but Heaven hath pleased it so To punish me with this and this with me . .

A Comparison With “Electra”

Surely this is exactly the same dramaturgy that we meet m Sophocles’ Electro. When Orestes comes out after killing his mother, Electra asks how things are. “In the palace”, he says, “‘all is well—if Apollo’s oracle was well.” Perhaps it was a reaction and bloody deed: it seems to bring Orestes little joy. we may think of it what we like. Sophocles does not invite us to approve. Apollo approves, and Orestes, though he acts for his own reasons. Is the god’s agent. Polonius meets a violent death while spying; and that such a man should so be killed is, in a large sense, right. Hamlet may repent; Orestes may feel remorse at a dreadful art, but in each case Heaven was ordinate.

The Death of Laertes

The death of Laertes, too, is a coherent part of this same pattern. To this friend of Hamlet’s, we can not attribute one fault; nor are we taken by surprise when we meet it. Laertes is a noble and generous young man, but his sense of honor does not have secure foundations—and Polonius’s farewell speech to him makes the fact easy to understand. His natural and unguarded virtue, assailed at once by his anger, his incomplete understanding of the facts, and the evil suggestions of Claudius, gives way. Lie falls into treachery, and through it, as he comes to see, he is “most justly killed.”

The Deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two agreeable though undistinguished young men whom Hamlet sends to their doom without turning a hair. True that they were friends of Hamlet, and Hamlet corroborates this fact when he says:

My excellent good friends: how dost thou, Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do you both? But something happens to these two young men: they have been suborned by Claudius and Gertrude. Says Guildenstern to the King and the Queen:

These, two men give up themselves—to a King who is a murderer and to the King’s guilty wife. Nor is this all that Shakespeare has to tell us about them. We are further told that “the cease of majesty dies not alone when a king falls; many lesser beings meet their ruin. With the murder of King Hamlet, the ruin of many smaller persons must follow, and Guildenstern and Rosencrantz belong to this category

Tin- Reason for the demolition of Hamlet

There remains Hamlet, last and the greatest of the eight. Why

Must he be destroyed? It is not enough to reply that he is destroyed simply because he has failed to destroy Claudius first. The destruction of Hamlet too is presented as being directed by Providence and, therefore, inevitable and right If “there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow”. Hamlet surely has his faults, and his principal fault is that he hesitated too long in the matter of his revenge. But Shakespeare does not leave us with the impression that the tragedy in this play is that such a fine man as Hamlet should be ruined by one fault.

We get the impression that the tragedy lies in the fact that a fine man like Hamlet should be drawn down into the gulf, and that the poison let loose in Denmark should destroy indiscriminately the good,, the bad, and the indifferent. Good and bad, Hamlet and Claudius, are coupled in the one sentence: ‘‘If his fitness speaks, mine is ready.”

That Claudius is “fit and seasoned for his passage” is plain enough: but it is also plain that Hamlet is equally “ready” Hamlet has been telling us, throughout the play, that life can henceforth have no meaning or value to him. Confronted by what he sees in Denmark, he, the man of action has been reduced to impotence ; the man of reason has gone “mad” , the man of religion has been dragged down to “knavery”, and has felt the contagion of hell. The core of Hamlet’s tragedy is to be found in the fact that such surpassing excellence as his is, like the virtue and beauty of Ophelia, brought to nothing by evil.

Through all the members of these two doomed families, the evil goes on working, in a succession “of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts, of accidental judgment, casual slaughters of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause”, until none is left, and the state is wiped clean.

It is by adopting this approach to the play that H.D.F. Kitto argues that this play should be treated as religious drama and that, if thus treated, it certainly does not lose either in significance or in artistic integrity.


Leave a Comment