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Religion in Hamlet

Quotes and Analysis of religious themes in Hamlet.
by

Malory Smith

on 12 December 2012

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Transcript of Religion in Hamlet

Religion in Hamlet A misinterpretation of religion
to suit the needs of royalty. Act 4 Act 5 "Is she to be buried in Christian burial, when she willfully seeks her own salvation?" Pg. 239 "Her obsequies have been as far enlarged as we have warranty. Her death was doubtful, and, but that great command o'ersways the order, she should in ground unsanctified been lodged till the last trumpet." Pg. 255 Thesis "No place indeed should murder sanctuarize; Revenge should have no bounds." Pg. 233 "They say the owl was a baker's daughter. Lord, we know what we are but know not what we may be. God be at your table."
Pg. 207 "Do not fear our person. There's such divinity doth hedge a king that treason can but peep to what it would, acts little of his will." Pg. 213 "What have you done, my lord, with the dead body?"
"Compounded it with dust, whereto 'tis kin." Pg. 191 "Get thee to a nunnery, farewell. Or if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go, and quickly too." Pg. 129 Act 3 In this famous soliloquy, Hamlet contemplates suicide and what will happen in the after life. He uses the word "devoutly," which possesses a religious connotation. In the next line, Hamlet changes his mind about death and includes the literal meaning of "sleep" by mentioning dreaming. He wants to commit suicide, but he thinks it less honorable and fears that the afterlife may be worse than the life he currently lives. Hamlet, in his criticism of Ophelia, tells her to "get thee to a nunnery." Nunnery is a word that traditionally refers to a convent, but in this time, it was also a slang word for a brothel. He basically calls her a whore by telling her that she needed to go to a nunnery as quickly as possible. Hamlet alludes to Genesis 3:19, saying that he has returned Polonius's body to its original state of dust. Everyone begins as dust and therefore ends as dust. Hamlet makes it seem as if it's not a big deal because he is returning the body to where it originated. In this line, Ophelia refers to a legend about a baker's daughter who was turned into an owl for refusing to give Christ bread. Ophelia emphasizes the severity of refusing Christ, because while we may know what we are, only Christ knows what we may be. This quote shows Claudius's error in that he thinks he can do whatever he pleases because he is always protected by "divinity." This line refers to a medieval belief that if a murderer took refuge in a church, they could not be taken prisoner by civil authorities for their actions. Laertes suggests killing Hamlet in the church, but Claudius responds with this, showing his indifference as to where Hamlet is killed, just as long as he gets revenge. The gravedigger comments on the tradition that those who commit suicide are not allowed to be buried with a Christian burial ceremony. They question this because of rumors that had been circulating that suggested Ophelia's death was not an accident after all. The priest claims to have performed the funeral rites for Ophelia to the extent of church law. If Claudius had not overruled the traditional procedures for burials, Ophelia would have been buried on unsanctified ground until Judgment Day. In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses religion to emphasize the extent to which royalty misinterpreted and misused certain religious and Christian beliefs to best suit their own interests. "No more-and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to- 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep-to sleep, perchance to dream." P. 123 "And am I then revenged to take him in the purging of his soul when he is fit and seasoned for his passage? No. Up sword, and know thou a more horrid hent." Pg. 167 Hamlet intends to kill Claudius, but when he finds him, he is praying. Hamlet decides to kill Claudius after he catches him doing something sinful, so that he won't have time to "purge his soul." Hamlet hopes that when Claudius is killed that he will go to hell, where he thought he belonged, without having the chance to ask forgiveness for his sins. "To my sick soul (as sin's true nature is), Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss. So full of artless jealousy is guilt, It spills itself in fearing to be spilt." Pg. 205-207 In this quote, the queen suggests that the heart is full of jealousy and guilt, because of an inherent sinful nature. She says, "It spills itself in fear of being spilt," as a way to say that people would rather just admit to being jealous or guilty than be accused of it or exposed by someone else.
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