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The influence of laertes and horatio in william shakespeares hamlet

Have a suggestion to improve this page? To leave a general comment about our Web site, please click here Share this page with your network. Religious Elements in Shakespeare's Hamlet byPamela Ronson Objectives Introduction Teaching in a public school, with its sensitivity to the maintenance of relativism in thinking, can be a hindrance to an understanding of religious issues. Yet in the areas of virtue, morality, or ethics, all acknowledged to play a role in the development of human character, religion may be found to be inextricably linked.

One cannot stand in front of students and dance around it; religion is a force with which to contend, especially if Shakespeare is in the literary canon for the year. Purpose If one is to teach the students about the most central influences in early English Literature, they need to understand the potency of religion within the English canon.

In the beginning of the school year, we spend three weeks analyzing Oedipus the King, The Alchemist, and Hamlet, with regard to man's free will vs. Then, the three-week unit on Religious Elements in Shakespeare's Hamlet is taught.

Religious Elements in Shakespeare's Hamlet

After this unit, students will have a good understanding of the role that religion plays in society, historically and at present. Finally, a serious engagement with the primary texts that comprise early English Literature will occur.

Because students need not only to understand the importance of religion but also history, politics, and morality in literature, students need further exposure and further practice in identifying the role of religion, among other learning curves, in the following texts during a ten-week unit: Rationale Because Hamlet is peppered with religious allusions, it also encompasses the theme of the struggle between man's free will and man's pre-determined destiny.

Background To appreciate the unit in full, students will need to know the following background information: Hamlet Students need to have read the play, Hamlet1 the Folger Shakespeare Library edition is recommended for high school students at least once thoroughly, and have recognized as well the major themes of love, adultery, incest, death, madness, suicide, revenge, virtue, and sin, etc.

Please note that this unit can be modified to teach younger grades, ranging in the 6-12th grades. Modifications suitable for the teacher and students are encouraged and necessary.

A synopsis of the play follows: The play begins by introducing the young prince of Denmark, Hamlet, whose father died one month ago and whose mother has decided to marry his Uncle Claudius, now King of Denmark. Only until the appearance of a ghost resembling his father, the late King Hamlet, does Hamlet have a motive for animosity towards his uncle: The rest of the play lies in Hamlet's ability to believe this ghost to be trustworthy, and not diabolical, as he pretends to be mad while attempting completion of his ghost father's command.

A series of major catastrophes ensue: Hamlet rejects his former lover, Ophelia; Hamlet kills Ophelia's father, Polonius, on the premise that it was Claudius; Ophelia goes mad after the death of her father; Hamlet stages a play within a play to decide whether or not Claudius was to blame; Hamlet decides against killing Claudius while his uncle prays, but to do so instead at a future moment when he would surely die and go to hell; Ophelia's brother, Laertes, and Claudius plan a conspiracy against Hamlet; Laertes challenges Hamlet to a fencing match with Hamlet using the rapier poisoned by Claudius; Claudius poisons a cup of wine, in the event that Hamlet should win the swordfight; Gertrude accidently drinks the poisoned wine; Laertes accidently gets stabbed with the poisoned rapier; the dying Hamlet denounces Claudius to the public once Laertes reveals the truth; and Fortinbras's army comes to reclaim the throne of Denmark.

Religion Definition of Religion A common understanding of religion must be taught to the students before they begin the unit: The Importance of Religion Students need to assess why religion merits the attention it receives in daily life across the world.

General discussion may ensue from an in-class informal discussion. Students should then turn to learning about why Shakespeare believed religion to be so important. Shakespeare understood humans with such ingenuity that his intelligence seems incomparable. The level of candor, wit, and mellifluous ease with which he manipulated his characters to correctly portray human life is impressive, and not yet superseded by other playwrights. With his basic understanding of man and man's folly, Shakespeare's mastery lies in this: Shakespeare publicly exposed man's free will.

His plays rested on his facil honesty about a human's free will and his destiny, understood as a struggle between a life that was pre-destined by the gods vs. Shakespeare's popularity, though, rested on the exposure of man's vices, i. I think Shakespeare understood that each man does not want to admit to God's will, and therefore exercises the choice not to, yet by doing so remains ignorant that God's will is what enables him to live most happily in the end: Understanding this, the Christian artist can perfect the logic of tragedy.

He can give to any tragic downfall its proper shape as a 'mistaken' version of religious self- abandonment, a topsy-turvy Salvationism. Then, when the total action is rehearsed before an audience, some spectators will afterwards say, 'How sad it had to be thus'; whereas others, who see the deeper meaning, will say, 'How sad it had to be thus when it might have been otherwise.

As theater-goers, we identify with this weakness, simultaneously expressing admiration and hatred of it. We love him for this: It contains the possibility of the new, both as a result of action which man may take and as result of growth and the providential shaping of events that lie outside man's control. I was hardly tucked away when the pursuivants broke down the door and burst in. They fanned out through the house, making a great racket. The first thing they did was to shut up the mistress of the house in her own room with her daughters, then they locked up the Catholic servants in different places in the same part of the house.

This done, they took possession of the place it was a large house and began to search everywhere, even lifting up the tiles of the roof to expose underneath them and using candles in the dark corners. When they found nothing, they started knocking down suspicious-looking places. They measured the walls with long rods and if the measurements did not tally they pulled down the section that they could not account for. They tapped every wall and floor for hollow spots; and on sounding anything hollow they smashed it in.

Although it is confirmed that Shakespeare was raised in a Catholic family,9 it remains unclear as to what religion he espoused. If his father was both Catholic and Protestant, William Shakespeare was on his way to being neither. Students should note that in every Shakespearean play, Will pits his characters in a struggle for "x" and "y" or "z" sorts of power.

Religion was just another question within 16th C life that needed an answer. It was not simply about the religious contention of the Protestants v. Catholics in the social atmosphere in this century, it was also about the struggle between men the influence of laertes and horatio in william shakespeares hamlet women, princes and kings, love and adultery, honesty and disloyalty, the rich and the poor, politics and ethics, virtue and sin, heaven and hell, life and death, God and man.

Shakespeare saw this, capitalized on it, and used it for the benefit of his playwriting success. Therefore, he disregarded any allegiance to prescribed biases, but rather fueled the plot of his plays with opposites. Religion During Shakespearean Times Students must understand the role of theology during Shakespeare's life.

In 16th C England, the majority of Christians would have been well versed in theology. The classics concerned the province of natural truth, while theology concentrated on revelation and salvation. Yet this was commonplace, since Elizabethan men were held accountable for both the advancement of the state and the church.

The Word lays hold of few; not one man in a thousand will accept it. We get William Shakespeare, the author and playwright who lived in a world of opposites and realized the difficulty of achieving perfect balance between them. Not only did he struggle with this, but also realized that his citizen counterparts fought the same battle. This struggle of the influence of laertes and horatio in william shakespeares hamlet realities became the groundwork for his plays: His remarkable religious allusiveness, and the knowledge of Protestant and Catholic doctrine that it reveals, imply a dramatist interested in religious issues…For Shakespeare to incorporate shifting representations of conflicting religious viewpoints…suggested to me that he was either careless or indifferent or mindfully engaged in juxtaposing and melding Protestant and Catholic doctrinal viewpoints to create his art.

As a busy playwright, he was simply pleased to have found a convenient vehicle for the tenor of his thought. It is believed that Shakespeare demonstrated an easy and intimate familiarity with Christian theology, as "Shakespeare more than any other popular playwright of his time had absorbed the language of [the] Prayer Book and [the] Geneva Bible.

In addition to his own free, lively, and inventive literary play, in the influence of laertes and horatio in william shakespeares hamlet Bible Shakespeare "found subtle techniques of storytelling: As for the playgoer, the common Elizabethean would probably have attended a Shakespearean play without special notice of the allusions to Scripture, Mythology, Prayers, and general dogma.

His allusions "extend the depth of the play itself"30 and function as flexible metaphors extending into many areas of life: Religious History To understand religious allusions in Hamlet, students must first receive instruction in the religious concepts that are being alluded to by Shakespeare throughout the entire play. In no particular order, students should learn the following religious concepts: Students need to know about certain elements of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, specifically, the betrayal of Judas, Jesus facing Pontius Pilate, Jesus taking the place of Barabbas, the soldiers mocking Jesus as he carried the cross, the crucifying of Jesus, Jesus dying on the cross, Jesus buried in Joseph's tomb, and Jesus' ascension from the dead after three days.


Students need to know about Christians as baptized in "the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," i. Students need to know the creeds common to Catholic and Protestant churches, as the Nicene Creed outlines the history of the Christian faith and identifies the terms under which followers express belief.

Students need to know about the evening when the Last Supper took place between Jesus and his twelve apostles, specifically about Jesus' prediction of Judas' betrayal, the incarnation of Christ's body and blood, and the promise of salvation for those who believe in the incarnation.

Students need to know that one of Jesus' apostles, Judas, betrayed Jesus by acknowledging him in front of the chief priests and elders who were looking to persecute Jesus. After he kissed Jesus in the Garden in Gethsemane, the guards soon arrested Jesus and paid Judas in silver. Students need to know about the functions of the Seven Sacraments in the Christian Church: Students need to know about the final day where Jesus judges each Christian accordingly, specifically how the unjust merit their place in Hell, while the just earn entry into Heaven.

Students need to know laws against murder, suicide, incest, truth, adultery, covetousness, etc. Students need to know the story of Cain and his brother Abel, specifically about how Adam and Eve bore two sons, and when it came time for each to bring forth an offering to God, only Abel's sacrifice was acceptable to God.

Since Cain became jealous of his brother, he killed him, and received punishment from God. Nine Choirs of Angels41: Students need to know the divisions of angels as prescribed by the Catholic Church in descending order of rank, specifically, Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Archangels, Principalities, and Angels, with particular attention paid to the Cherubim as a symbol of God's knowledge and protection.

Students need to know about the Temptation and Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, specifically how the serpent tricked Eve into eating fruit from the tree of knowledge, how Eve then passed this fruit onto Adam, who ate it, and God's punishment for each party, with special attention paid to how mankind would, from this point on, return to the earth at death for "out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.

Students need to know about what man must do in order to obtain eternal life in heaven. Specifically, man must not only keep the commandments, but also give up his riches to the poor and follow Jesus in all his paths.

Students need to know the story about a man named Jepthah who unintentionally sacrificed his daughter and sent her into exile for two months because of the influence of laertes and horatio in william shakespeares hamlet vow he made to the Lord. Students need to know about the importance of prayer in Christian life, specifically, the main prayer given to believers by God Himself entitled "The Lord's Prayer.

It also implores God to forgive any trespasses we committed so that we may forgive others' transgressions, and it begs that we not be led into temptation, but instead, the influence of laertes and horatio in william shakespeares hamlet be delivered from evil. Students need to know about the path leading to hell. Students should know the Seven Deadly Sins and their opposite virtues: Reading Now, after learning the necessary religious background and religious concepts, the students are ready to read the play through a religious lens.

Specific scenes need identification within each of the five acts, building on the religious concepts the students have now mastered. At this point, the Ghost has appeared on three different occasions Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Trinity allusion and on this third night, as Horatio begs the illusion to stay, the Ghost spreads his arms crucifixion allusion. The Ghost appears to attempt conversation but then a cock crows in the distance Peter's denial three times before the cock crowed.

Soon after, Marcellus asks if he should strike it with his partisan, in the same manner that Jesus was speared on his left side of his body, out of which flowed holy water crucifixion allusion. Students need to pay special attention to lines 162-179 because Marcellus explains that the Ghost's presence faded on the crowing of the cock since the rooster has the power to "awake the God of day" and, at his warning, the bad spirit hides away, "like a guilty thing upon a fearful summons", i.

Marcellus also explains that on Christmas Eve, the rooster crows all night long so that no bad spirits will appear on such a holy night. The rooster, in their eyes, is a symbol of truth; questions should arise in the students' minds as to whether the spiritual integrity of the Ghosts is good or evil.