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Hamlet - The Great Chain of Being

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Roxanne Houweling

on 12 March 2013

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Transcript of Hamlet - The Great Chain of Being

The Greater Chain of Being Hamlet Greek Mythology Natural Order of the Universe Christianity Shakespeare heavily borrows from Greek
mythology : Refer Great Chain of Being Feudal system of government
rankings and hierarchies
societal classes
religious classes
natural distinctions/ nature
eg. lion = king of the beasts, or an eagle soars over other birds Divine Right of Kings Monarch is NOT subject to earthly authorities.
Only God can judge an unjust king:
to depose a king would be considered a sacrilegious act
concept was held until 1688/1689
Romans 13:1-7
1 Peter 2:13-17
Matthew 22:20-21
The pope would technically be higher than the king because the king is subject to divine law, and the pope is the earthly highest form of divine law When the natural order of the universe is violated, everyone will know. How did the natural world reflect this violation?


Why, in the context of the entire scene, is it appropriate for the Ghost to make such a reference?

What other allusions are made in this scene to an unnatural order of things? Hamlet's Plan Hamlet makes his peers swear their allegiance to him in order to gain vengeance for his father's murder. He reveals a plan to them:

lines 166-182

What is he going to do?! An Antic Disposition Until recent history, people who were considered mad - or insane - held a special place in society. They were thought to be "children of God" or to have been "divinely touched".

... you may have heard someone refer to another person as being "touched", as they point to their head and roll their eyes?

As such a special person, they were not shunned. They became the responsibility of the entire community; it was strictly forbidden to hurt such "special" persons.

What does this have to do with anything in the play?? Hyperion - the sun-god in Greek mythology
Hercules - hero in Greek mythology; renowned
for his strength
Lethe - the river of forgetfulness
Niobe - turned into stone by Zeus
satyr - part man, part goat in Greek mythology
(lewd and promiscuous) God
Human Beings
Earth References are typically made to Roman Catholicism:
Act 1 scene 5 - descriptions of purgatory
Act 1 scene 5 - reference to last rites
"With all my imperfection on my head" (line 80)
penance = absolution of sins/ confession
anointing of the sick = grace and prayers for relief
the Eucharist = provision for the journey
"Yes, by St. Patrick, but there is, Horatio" (line138)
"Indeed, upon my sword, in deed" (line 149)
the handle of a sword is shaped like a cross Ghostly Allusions
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