Significance of LentThe traveling players whom Hamlet will employ are seeking their audience during Lent, the time of penance and fasting, when the theatres were closed.  Consider what the...

Significance of Lent

The traveling players whom Hamlet will employ are seeking their audience during Lent, the time of penance and fasting, when the theatres were closed.  Consider what the skirting of Lenten rules says about the nature of morality. 

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jeff-hauge's profile pic

jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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The timing of Lent is crucial to the theme. Lent is the time of year to acknowledge that we are made of dust and to dust shall we return. Ash Wednesday to Easter is a time to contemplate "this quintessence of dust".
Hamlet contemplates his own mortality during Lent. He uses the players to convict the heart of the King (and Queen) during this time of reflection and fasting.

Claudius is provoked to the altar but is still unable to confess. If the potent combination of the plot of the play and the time of the religious calendar won't get him to repent, nothing will. Do it now, Hamlet.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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What does this say, then, about people like Hamlet and his royal family who would allow the players in to perform for them during this time?  Is this Shakespeare pointing his finger at Claudius for being a horrid and evil man? A household full of immoral royals?  Hummm...

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Is Shakespeare making a statement about morality, or is he making a statement in favor of Protestantism? Although some Protestant denominations (Church of Eng., Episcopalian, United Methodist) observe Lent, it is a predominantly Roman Catholic observance. Is this another indication of Renaissance/Reformation thinking?

I used to copyedit The Handbook of Denominations for Abingdon Press. It's good to finally put some of that knowledge to use!

My thinking is that he is criticizing all empty rules, probably in both Catholicism and Protestantism.  I heard a lecture once about how Jewish people used to circumvent the rule about traveling from their homes during the Sabbath by tying hundreds of yards of rope or string to themselves and their home, therefore claiming that they had not "left" the property.  Can anyone verify this?  It was some time ago that I heard the story.  In any case, I think the point may have been about loopholes. 

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Is Shakespeare making a statement about morality, or is he making a statement in favor of Protestantism? Although some Protestant denominations (Church of Eng., Episcopalian, United Methodist) observe Lent, it is a predominantly Roman Catholic observance. Is this another indication of Renaissance/Reformation thinking?

I used to copyedit The Handbook of Denominations for Abingdon Press. It's good to finally put some of that knowledge to use!

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