Hamlet – Spiritual or Non-spiritual?

2751 Words12 Pages
Hamlet – Spiritual or Non-spiritual? The spiritual dimension or side of the Shakespearean drama Hamlet is nearly quite as interesting as the non-spiritual aspect. This essay will explore the spirituality in its various dimensions. R.A. Foakes in “The Play’s Courtly Setting” explains the spiritual setback Hamlet experienced following the ghost’s revelation and request for revenge: Perhaps the most terrible feature of his recognition of corruption everywhere is his recognition of it in himself too; where others deceive he must deceive too, where others act he must put on an antic disposition, where the inmost desires and passions of others must be revealed, so must his own passions be roused. And where there is no legal punishment for his father’s death, he must stoop, driven by the universal wrong, and “being thus be-netted round with villainies”, to revenge. He must share the corruption of others in spite of his nobility, and recognize in himself the common features, "we are arrant knaves all." (53) In his essay “Hamlet: His Own Falstaff,” Harold Goddard sees that Hamlet was made for “religion” and several other purposes: He [Hamlet] was made, that is, for religion and philosophy, for love and art, for liberty to “grow unto himself” – five forces that are the elemental enemies of Force. And this man is called upon to kill. It is almost as if Jesus had been asked to play the role of Napoleon (as the temptation in the wilderness suggests that in some sense he was). If Jesus had been, ought he to have accepted it? The absurdity of the question prompts the recording of the strangest of all the strange facts in the history of Hamlet: the fact, namely, that nearly all readers, commentators, and critics are agreed in thinking that it was Hamlet’s duty to kill, that he ought indeed to have killed much sooner than he did. (12) Goddard’s highlighting of the main question underlying the narrative of the play – a moral question involving justifiable killing – indicates the spiritual nature of Hamlet. Not all critics appreciate the spirituality in Hamlet. A.C. Bradley’s Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth presents a different interpretation regarding the presence of spirituality within the play: For although this or that dramatis persona may speak of gods or of God, of evil spirits or of Satan, of heaven and of hell, and although the poet may show us ghosts from another world, these ideas do not materially influence his representation of life, nor are they used to throw light on the mystery of its tragedy.
Open Document