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Essay on Biblical Illusions Used in "Hamlet"

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Some cultures look to the Quran or the Torah, while others read the Bible or the Vedas. Regardless of the religion, these holy books of worship are thought to be the guidelines to mankind’s sense of morality and justice. As Shakespeare argues in Hamlet, however, these classical texts, while thought to be teaching lessons, only expose a darker side to mankind. Despite the supposedly justified search for finality, involving murder, greed, and hypocrisy, driving the actions of characters in Hamlet, Shakespeare uses biblical allusions to highlight man’s innate attraction to sin.
Throughout the play, Hamlet is a character who seems out of place and longing for a freedom or release from the prison that is Denmark, and he seems to want to be in a “society in which revenge and suicide are considered acceptable,” (Muijden 2). Marieke van Muijden argues that Hamlet is longing to live in the “Old World,” which is similar to the Old Testament, but is stuck in the “new, Christian World” where suicide, murder, and revenge are seen as mortal sins. In Hamlet’s position, suicide is certainly an appealing option and that is why “To be or not to be,” is contemplated (III.i.64). Shakespeare makes it apparent that Hamlet is attracted toward the notion of suicide, which is, above all else in a Christian world, a mortal sin. Using Hamlet as a character that the audience can empathize with, Shakespeare is able to universalize his message that man is attracted to sin through his consideration of suicide. Hamlet’s attraction to sin is not only present through his actions, but also his observances about the sinners around him.
The story of Adam and Eve and their original sin in the Garden of Eden is an allusion that Shakespeare uses to draw attention to...


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...raction that man has for sin, Shakespeare masterfully intertwines the characters in Hamlet with the stories of the Bible and transforms the accepted meaning of the classical text through a lens that is much more critical and truly reflects the intentions of man.



Works Cited
The English Standard Version Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments with Apocrypha. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
Muijden, Marieke van. Mythological and Biblical Allusions in Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth. Diss. University of Utrecht, 2006. Web.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 2009. Print.
Stump, Donald V. "Hamlet, Cain and Abel, and the Pattern of Divine Providence." Renaissance Papers (1985): 27-38. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 123. Detroit: Gale, 2009. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 6 Mar. 2011.


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