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Shakespeare's Hamlet: Understanding the Elizabethan World View

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Christina McGovern

on 5 May 2014

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Transcript of Shakespeare's Hamlet: Understanding the Elizabethan World View

Shakespeare's Hamlet
Understanding the
Elizabethan World View

In order to fully understand Hamlet, there are some things about the Elizabethans we need to know. Specifically, that their world view and ours are VERY VERY DIFFERENT.
The Roman Catholic Church:
Catholicism was out of favor because of a movement called the Reformation.
The Bible was translated into English, instead of Latin, so many people were actually able to read it for thei first time during this period.
Puritanism was on the rise.
Science and Astronomy:
Galileo was discovering during this time period that the earth was not, in fact, FLAT.
He also discovered that the sun, and not the earth was the center of the universe.
Though we now know these discoveries to be true- at the time, there was debate over which concept of the universe was correct.
Elizabeth I :
The daughter of Henry VIII, she was born a princess, but her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed two and a half years after her birth, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother, Edward VI, bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey, cutting his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Catholic Mary, out of the succession in spite of statute law to the contrary. His will was set aside, Mary became queen, and Lady Jane Grey was executed.
Elizabeth ruled from 1558 to 1603, and was the last of the Tudor Dynasty.
The time period of her rule became known as the "Elizabethan Period"
Fun Facts about Bess, the Virgin Queen:
In 1558, Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister, during whose reign she had been imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.
Elizabeth set out to rule by good counsel depending heavily on a group of trusted advisers led by William Cecil, Baron Burghley. One of her first moves as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the Supreme Governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement later evolved into today's Church of England.
It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir so as to continue the Tudor line. She never did, however, despite numerous courtships. As she grew older, Elizabeth became famous for her virginity, and a cult grew up around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day.
After 1570, when the pope declared her illegitimate and released her subjects from obedience to her, several conspiracies threatened her life. All plots were defeated, however, with the help of her ministers' secret service. Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs, moving between the major powers of France and Spain. In the mid-1580s, war with Spain could no longer be avoided, and when Spain finally decided to attempt to conquer England in 1588, the failure of the Spanish Armada associated her with one of the greatest victories in English history.
Elizabeth's reign is known as the Elizabethan era, famous above all for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and for the seafaring prowess of English adventurers such as Sir Francis Drake.
Towards the end of her reign, a series of economic and military problems weakened her popularity. However, after the short reigns of Elizabeth's half-siblings, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped forge a sense of national identity.
Queen Elizabeth encouraged adventurous men to sail Westward in search of wealth and
undiscovered lands.
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