Shakespeare 's Hamlet And The Idea Of Human Nature Essay

Shakespeare 's Hamlet And The Idea Of Human Nature Essay

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Stuck in her own interpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the idea that “human nature is (nearly) the same” worldwide, an American Anthropologist, Laura Bohannan, set off for the Tiv in West Africa (Bohannan 1). Bohannan’s original intent was to learn about the African tribe’s culture and ceremonies, but one morning, when she was sitting with the elders of the tribe, they asked Bohannan to tell them the story of Hamlet, for they have told her many of their stories and found it only fair. In an attempt to translate the play into the Tiv’s language and finding the lack of appropriate words, as well as cultural differences between ideas many Europeans and Americans both agree upon, Bohannan quickly realized her original theory was incorrect. Ultimately, human nature is not comprehensible everywhere, for culture shapes the way we think and our language gives us the tools to express those thoughts.
There were obvious cultural difference Bohannan was expecting to encounter, such as ways of dressing, food, and ceremonial rituals, but the differences in perspectives, specifically pertaining to Hamlet, was not one of them. An individual’s ideas and opinions of how everything should be effects ones outlooks, particularly because it stems from that individual’s culture. The Tiv could not understand many concepts Bohannan was trying to explain, and to help them grasp each notion, an elder would reword the ideas from Hamlet to allow it to fit into their cultural beliefs and views before allowing Bohannan to continue. Concepts such as why Hamlet was upset when his mother remarried so soon, or why and how Ophelia drowned herself were disagreed upon, for, and elder explained, ‘“In our country… the younger brother marries the elder brother’s wi...


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The Tiv’s cultural upbringing allowed them to look at Hamlet at a different way than Bohannan, as well as most Americans and Europeans. They did not see anything wrong with Claudius marrying Hamlet’s mother, and with this ideology, this play would have never become popular in Africa. Hamlet could not have tried to avenge his father, and without Bohannan as a cultural mediator, the story would have been accepted more as a common sense piece, rather than an entertaining one. These vast differences discovered here can help individuals in the workplace, and specifically, educators understand cultural differences. Educators do not always have an opportunity to understand students’ lives at home versus at school, but with the help of Bohannan and the Tiv, such barriers can become more obvious and lessened with the patients and works of both teacher and student.

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