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Renaissance and Hamlet as a Renaissance Man

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Freya Daver

on 15 May 2014

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Transcript of Renaissance and Hamlet as a Renaissance Man

The renaissance was a period of "rebirth". It began in Italy the late middle ages and the cultural movement spread through Europe in the form of art, literature and education.

In this context, it specifically refers to the renewal of learning, especially in terms of beliefs and way of doing things.

The concept
Renaissance in Hamlet
Hamlet is recognized as a renaissance man due to his fundamentally different approach to the world than the medieval characters of Fortinbras and Laertes.

Hamlet's Renaissance view on his world develops him both as an Elizabethan-era humanist and nihilist. Thus, through Hamlet, Shakespeare illustrates humanity's struggle with the purpose and meaning of man.


Within Hamlet's clashing humanism and nihilism in attempting to answer questions about human existence, he struggles to murder Claudius.

This inner struggle is evident throughout the play such as when he declares, "why, what an ass am I! ... prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, "

It is characterized as a rise in renewed interest of
humanist philosophy
; self belief, human worth, and individual dignity.

An opposing aspect of the Renaissance is
, which proposes that human existence in fact has no meaning and thus there is no real purpose to life.
Renaissance and Hamlet as a Renaissance Man
14th to 17th century
Humanism vs. Nihilism
The Humanist philosophy is seen when Hamlet questions:

"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties..."

In this speech, you can see a clear assertion of humanist ideas about the uniqueness and extraordinary abilities of the human mind. Hamlet refers to man as work, referring that man is a product of gods creation. This suggests that a man i limited by his own form.
We observe another aspect of the renaissance through most famous soliloquy, which begins,

"To be or not to be...",

he alludes to an unknown afterlife as

"The undiscovered country...,".

Techniques: Metaphor, Repetition, Sililoquy
This recognizes his departure from Medieval religious ideas which rooted on a strict belief that people either go to heaven or hell when they die.
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