Most literary critics readily acknowledge, like the author of this essay, the obvious presence of considerable spirituality within the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet. The purpose of this paper is to identify and elaborate on selected spiritual elements in the play.
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. The Elizabethan drama was almost wholly secular; and while Shakespeare was writing he practically confined his view to the world of non-theological observation and thought, so that he represents it substantially in one and the same way whether the period of the story is pre-Christian or Christian. (40)
In his Introduction to Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet, Harold Bloom finds the Bible in this drama:
Horatio, then, represents by way of our positive association with him; it is a commonplace, but not less true for that, to say that Hamlet represents by negation. I think this negation is Biblical in origin, which is why it seems so Freudian to us, because Freudian negation is Biblical and not Hegelian, as it were. Hamlet is Biblical rather than Homeric or Sophoclean. Like the Hebrew hero confronting Yahweh, Hamlet needs to be everything in himself yet knows the sense in which he is nothing ...
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...Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Rpt. from Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.
Rosenberg, Marvin. “Laertes: An Impulsive but Earnest Young Aristocrat.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Masks of Hamlet. Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 1992.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html
West, Rebecca. “A Court and World Infected by the Disease of Corruption.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Court and the Castle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957.
Wilson, John Dover. What happens in Hamlet. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1959.
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