Hamlet: Christian and Pagan Elements

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Gracia 1 ! Abigail Gracia Dr. Mimosa Stephenson ENGL 4301.01 November 24, 2014 Hamlet: Christian and Pagan Elements William Shakespeare’s Hamlet was written between 1599 and 1602, which is also known as the Elizabethan era. Although Christianity was the main religion during this era and the majority of the people followed it, Shakespeare chose a tenth-century pagan story for his play and thus include both Christian and Pagan elements in his most famous literary piece. Hamlet is considered a revenge play. Revenge is “a pagan concept deeply embedded in most societies but at odds with Christian teaching” (Bevington 550). Pagan is “pertaining to the worship or worshipers of any religion that is neither Christian, Jewish, nor Muslim” (The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy). Christianity is “the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ” (According to The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy). The words of the characters show they consider themselves christian. The first glimpse of Christian elements in Hamlet is when Horatio is praying, “Heavens secure him!” (1.5.116). Hamlet tells Horatio and Marcellus there is nothing to be afraid of because the ghost has been sent by St. Patrick (the keeper of Purgatory). Another Christian element is when Claudius says, “ It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t,” (3.3.37). Here he is comparing his brother and him to Gracia 2 ! Cain and Abel from the Bible. Claudius prays that he may be forgiven by God but that there is not point because he wants to keep what he took out of murdering his brother. Hamlet is a Christian, a fact that hinders rather than helps him in his mission for revenge. Hamlet’s Christian belief is one of the many reasons why he hesitates to carry out the ghost's instructions, why he refrains from turning his weapon on himself. In the most famous of his
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