• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Shakespeare's Purpose in Subverting the "Moral Universe" in Hamlet, Measure for Measure, and the Henriad.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

5/8/07 7:39:27 PM Michelle Wendt Intro to Shakespeare Fall 2003 Professor Tomkins Shakespeare's Purpose in Subverting the "Moral Universe" in Hamlet, Measure for Measure, and the Henriad The inverted "moral universe"i in Shakespearean drama was a demonstration of the increased reality that ancestral and collective foundations were losing their sanctified nature. Key upheavals were taking place and the world of Shakespeare was evolving from a time where "the earth was still the center of the universe,ii" towards a life of societal instability. Like all playwrights, Shakespeare's ideas for plot were partly a reflection of the world in which he lived. The enlightenment was a time where religion was giving way to science and economic gain. It would be unreasonable for such a reflective dramatist to omit the implications and limitations of the times in his work. The regulations and boundaries for human conduct are not always clear, especially in times of fluctuation. While I would not maintain "moral universe" is a dominant theme in Shakespeare's work, I do argue that it is a somewhat significant current running through many of his plays. To define any one "moral universe" in the work is folly, each play deserves many separate definitions. Collective morality goes through an alteration according to the circumstances of each group of characters. Situational ethics play a role in determining the behavior of Shakespeare's characters, especially in the history plays. ...read more.

Middle

The Henriad is the clearest illustration of situational ethics in the works of Shakespeare. In his plays, the act of killing a king or subverting a king's power (A Midsummer Night's Dream) destabilizes the universe. In addition, each character feels justified in his or hers own actions. There is a lack of a conventional biblical "moral universe" in Henry IV, I and II; the persistent motif in these plays is that most of the characters are bent on servicing their own ends. The reality that an archbishop would consent to a revolt against the ruler is an obvious indication that the state of the" moral universe" is on its head. This might not have happened had Henry IV been a ruler by divine right. As the head of state, he set the tone of the universe. Since he interrupted the lines of succession; he left himself open to more of the same when his own past came back to haunt his rule. The constant uprisings are also taking place in Shakespeare's sector. During the performance of the plays, Elizabeth was fending off rebellions of her own. The characters in the Henriad also are deficient in morality. As in Measure for Measure, most of the characters are flawed, not just the hero. Both Hotspur and Henry fail to see their moral shortcomings. Integrity crumbles because the idea on which it is based is shallow. ...read more.

Conclusion

Humanity was moving away from absolutism to relativism and nihilism. Situational ethics played a strong role in his work in the lives and choices of his characters. Instead of using magic as the weight to unbalance the universe, he used morality and ethics as literary devices to throw his created worlds into chaos. When the "moral universe" was out of order, the rules of society became indistinct. Shakespeare forced certain characters to undertake journeys for enlightenment to restore the "moral universe." His function in destabilizing the "moral universe" was to emphasize the unnaturalness of the actions of his characters. i Term "moral universe" introduced by Professor Tomkins, Fall 2003 ii Donahue conversation iii Simms lecture Effect of the Reformation on the Renaissance in England iv Tom Bishop http://www.shaksper.net/archives/1998/1276.html SHAKSPER, the international electronic conference. v A Critical Look at Situation Ethics by WayneJackson. vi How moral is war, consider who gains, a few titled men are the only people who will actually benefit along with a host of knights, who fight for glory and pay in their protected Armour. But the reality is that the serfs will be the one to pay- their lands taxed, their farms and villages burnt and the men killed. All because they live in the region of certain lords, they will fight, no matter what the cost. Their situation remains static no matter who wears the crown, until they get a king who knows how to avoid war, restore a collective moral universe, and rule as a political leader instead of a barbarian. (Wendt) vii Tomkins lecture, November 2003. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Practical Questions section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Practical Questions essays

  1. Essay on Law vs. Justice

    "The culture at Enron became one that rewarded cleverness."[3] Enron's former President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffry Skilling actively cultivated a culture that would push limits- Do it right, do it now and do it better was his motto. He encouraged employees to be independent, innovative and aggressive.

  2. Utilitarianism is unjust

    Out of the eleven objections that Harwood has to utilitarianism, number seven is the most ineffective, and I completely agree with Maura. Harwood's seventh objection to utilitarianism states that utilitarianism requires us to go into the Experience Machine. This is totally false, because it goes against everything the Experience Machine states to be true.

  1. Arguing against the death penalty. Truly there is no purpose to the Death Penalty ...

    It cannot, and, as we have clearly seen, does not prevent crime outside of insultingly simple models of human behavioral response. Where is the purpose? The purpose of the Death Penalty lies in anger and hatred. Often has it been said that anyone who would not want a murderer of a relative to die is "sick."

  2. Deontology - looking for an objective basis to ground all moral action.

    Deontology therefore consists of two strands - identifying what is permissible and what is impermissible. Immanuel Kant's theory of ethics is considered deontological for several different reasons.

  1. Expalin the concept of Moral Relativism

    they feel that they could achieve a more loving solution if they did so, note that love in this context is "agape" a self sacrificing unconditional love for your fellow creature as opposed to a sexual love. Situation ethics says that reason is the instrument with which one should make

  2. Can moral absolutism be justified?

    Although most religions have basic guidelines as to what is right or wrong, it is impossible to know the will of God or the gods in every situation. Alternatively, there are reasons to dispute that moral absolutism cannot be justified, some believe that having absolute standards sufficient way to judge moral questions.

  1. Does the "War on Terror" mean the just war doctrine is dead?

    In response the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, wanted ?evidence for Osama to be responsible for the attacks? and that Osama be tried under Islamic law, the Taliban has reiterated that statement on a number of occasions when interviewed by journalists.

  2. Religious and/or moral principles are a hindrance with medical ethics. Examine and comment on ...

    Through this idea he came up with a criterion in which human life would need to fulfil to reach this ?person status?. He looked at how a person needs to be able to display traits such as self ?consciousness, emotions and rationality to be considered a person.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work