To understand a renaissance machiavel as portrayed in The Spanish Tragedy and Hamlet, it is necessary to find characters from both works that exhibit the characteristics of a machiavel (Plotting, secrecy and eventually murder). This is the difficult part, as most of the major characters in both plays exhibit some, if not all of these characteristics - while neither Heironimo nor Hamlet are villains, they both rely upon machiavellian tactics; they both feign madness to seem unthreatening, then proceed to strike when least expected:
I will revenge his death!
But how? Not as the vulgar wits of men,
With open, but inevitable ills,
As by secret, yet certain mean,
Which under kindship will be cloaked best.
The Spanish Tragedy III xiii 20-24
This behaviour is echoed by Hamlet following his meeting with his father's ghost. This insanity, this posturing and preparation for revenge, though for a good reason, is undoubtedly machiavellian. It is arguably the case that the insanity that both characters experience is not entirely faked, as both undergo extreme mental stress. This very real insanity is reflected by the disjointed and heavily end-stopped verse both Hamlet and Heironimo use when delivering soliloquies:
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling damned villain!
My tables. Meet it is I set it down
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain -
At least I am sure it may be so in Denmark.
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word.
It is "adieu, adieu, remember me."
I have sworn't
Hamlet I v 105-112
It is not the case, however, that machiavellian behaviour is restricted to the l...
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...ave done better, in the eyes of Hamlet at least, to wait for longer before doing so.
To conclude, it would seem that a renaissance machiavel is anyone who uses machiavellian ideas to effect others, whether it be for good or for ill. These machiavellian ideas and strategies range from subtlety and concealment, to murder and witness eradication. In essence, then, machiavellianism, in terms of the renaissance, is the process by which one person attempts to influence others by diverse means. Machiavellianism is not restricted to villains, as the heroic characters also make use of it. The definition of a renaissance machiavel ranges from the scheming evil of Lorenzo to the anti-heroic Heironimo.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Cyrus Hoy. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1992.
Kyd, Thomas. The Spanish Tragedy. Ed. Philip Edwards. London: Methuen, 1959.
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