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Historical Context of Hamlet?What is the historical context of Hamlet?  How does the...

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puck18 | Student, College Freshman

Posted July 21, 2008 at 1:35 PM via web

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Historical Context of Hamlet?

What is the historical context of Hamlet?  How does the historical period shape the characters, plots, and settings of Hamlet?

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 8, 2008 at 8:00 PM (Answer #2)

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Based on a old Norse folktale, "Hamlet"was first performed in 1601 or 1602, during the last year of the reign of Elizabeth I. Knowing that the queen's health was not good, "Hamlet" may be a call to strong government. As Elizabeth had no heir, the possibility of a fight over the throne lingered in the thoughts of many Englishmen. This, of course, would weaken the county just at a time England had just won a bitter battle with Spain. "Hamlet" is a play in which the fight over control of a county ultimately leads to the county being taken over by a foreign power. Some critics suggest that Shakespeare was warning England not to repeat the struggle over the throne after the death of Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII. The fight over the throne after Elizabeth's death would weaken the country and allow Spain a chance to regain power. Fortunately for Shakespeare, a fight was avoided when James VI of Scotland took over the English throne and became king of both England and Scotland.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted August 11, 2008 at 8:22 AM (Answer #3)

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I taught Hamlet here at eNotes for our Lit 101 blog.  There you will find complete, free lessons on the play.  Historical context is often addressed within the lessons.  You may also wish to look at the questions and answers on our discussion boards, or contribute to the discussion yourself.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted July 12, 2010 at 6:29 PM (Answer #4)

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Shakespeare had several sources upon which he could draw for this very same story, so I’m not sure that the story itself has anything to do with Elizabeth. What would have some historical implications are the details that Shakespeare added. Such as King Hamlet being Catholic as indicated by dying without blessing and being in purgatory. English citizens were mandated to join the protestant Church of England. (Yes this play takes place in Denmark, but it’s not a big stretch.) Now Hamlet as we all know was studying at the Lutheran school of Wittenburg. How would this transition between Catholicism and Protestantism have affected his way of thinking?

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