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Discuss Hamlet's attitude to death and the afterlife, giving an indication as to how both contemporary audience and modern audiences might view it.

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English Coursework Essay Discuss Hamlet's attitude to death and the afterlife, giving an indication as to how both contemporary audience and modern audiences might view it. "Hamlet" deals with situations, which require a single-minded response. However, by the end of the twentieth century a large percentage of people were unfamiliar with church worship and words of the bible, which makes modern interpretation of it much more difficult which Elizabethan and Jacobean audience of Shakespeare's time on the other hand had strong beliefs in religion, includes specifically the afterlife. Hamlet shares the views of the contemporary audience and we must therefore try to understand his religious perspectives in the way that contemporary audiences would have done. To the modern audience the religious ideas and beliefs of Hamlet may seem strange 1 "There is never an ideal production of Hamlet; any interpretation must limit. For our decade I think the play will be about the disillusionment which produces apathy of the will so deep that commitment to politics, to religion or to life is impossible...Hamlet is always on the brink of action, but something inside him stops the final committed action. It is an emotion which can encounter in the youth today." I agree with this statement but I think that it is Hamlet's conscience that holds him back from killing Claudius rather than mere disillusionment. ...read more.


The theme of suicide also comes into the play in Act Five Scene One (the Gravedigger Scene) when the clowns discuss whether Ophelia "drowned herself in her own defense." If you kill yourself you were not meant to have a Christian burial this is also brought up by one of the clowns when he cynically says "if (Ophelia) had not been a gentlewomen, she should have been buried out o' Christian burial" We in the modern age find this peculiar but in the time the play was written this was the usual practice. The Jacobean audience believed that you have no right to commit suicide as God gave you life and therefore had no right to a Christian burial. The King would have used his influence regarding Ophelia so she would get a Christian burial, which points to the hypocrisy of the rich, and powerful who are able to buy themselves and their friends privileges. In the same scene Hamlet talks about Yorick "the Kings jester" and remembers how he was. "Here hung those lips I have kiss's I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your 190 songs, your flashes of Merriment that were wont to se the table on a roar." Hamlet thinks that it is sad that Yorick has ended up as a bag of bones, yet acknowledges that he believes ...read more.


Laertes, Claudius and Gertrude's soul will all go to Hell as Laertes and Claudius have both committed murder none of them prayed before they died so their souls have not been absolved. Ophelia is seen as a victim of circumstance but is the one who least deserves a Christian burial, according to the religious beliefs of the play. I think that the modern audience would view this as wrong but by religious ethics of the time she had no more right to go to Heaven then someone who has committed murder. This seems harsh until one realises that, to the Shakespeareans, she had committed "self-slaughter" or murder on herself. In conclusion I think that both the contemporary and modern audiences view the subject of death and the afterlife very differently. The play "Hamlet" does not preach Christianity but allows us to make our own judgements and interpretations of the views voiced. However, an understanding of the context in which the play was written, enhances our appreciation of both its and Hamlet's views. 3"This tragedy does not insist on Christian judgements, but it does bring them into reckoning and leaves an audience to make what they will of them" 1 Peter Hall, discussing his 1965 production of Hamlet in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre 1 Peter Hall, discussing his 1965 production of Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre 2 Beaumont and fletcher , The Maid's Tragedy 3 Shakespeare The Tragedies by John Russell Brown Charlotte Milgate 1 1 ...read more.

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