What was Shakespeare's view of life, his philosphy and attitude toward life?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Most of what is known about Shakespeare's views, philosophy and attitude toward life are inferred indirectly from the themes of his plays and poetry. Nothing is extant or mentioned in history in which Shakespeare gives any kind of an autobiographical account of himself. However, the themes that appear repeatedly in his works do provide some insight into the inner realm of Shakespeare's thoughts.
We know from history that Shakespeare admired Queen Elizabeth I very much and that the admiration was mutual, meaning Queen Elizabeth also admired his work, even attending his plays from time to time. Shakespeare extended this admiration to craft a new definition of women and their role in life.

This is most evident in Much Ado About Nothing in which he names the heroine "Hero" and proceeds to have her play the role that is usually reserved for the valiant hero: she figured out the solution to the problem; she orchestrated its enactment; she set the plot to undo the villain; and she proved the heroine (herself) to be innocent and trustworthy.
This theme of the power and heroism of women is retold in several other plays, such as As You Like It. The concept is notable because it goes against conventional wisdom that had women cast as untrustworthy because they were seen in religious terms as the ones who were beguiled (tricked) into causing the downfall of humanity in the Judeo-Christian creation story.

Other notable themes that reveal information about Shakespeare's personal view, attitude and philosophy are:
1.  The nature of love, which he depicted as needing, first, a reason firmly rooted in valuable character traits and, second, a balance between order and inspiration, as seen in A Midsummer Night's Dream;
2.  Protestantism, which he depicted as a higher moral pathway than Catholicism, as is seen in the Protestant/Luther allusions in Hamlet;
3.  Virtue and madness, which he depicted in plays like Hamlet and King Lear and Macbeth showing that the quest for virtue may drive to madness as surely as the abandonment of virtue may drive to madness, indicating a balance here too is needed for success and sanity.

Another play that reveal his inner thoughts and beliefs is The Merchant of Venice in which he reverses Much Ado About Nothing and explores a hero as a cruel villain by showing Antonio as a heartless man to citizens guilty of nothing while being a loving friend to grasping, incompetent friends.

We might conclude from this that (1) Shakespeare was willing to embrace changes in society as brought about by Elizabeth I's reign and go a step further and see all women in the new light of Elizabeth; (2) he believed love must have reason to exist and be tempered, balanced, by both order and passion (3) he had high ideals of right and wrong and significant Protestant religious faith; (4) perceived virtue as a high attainment and as delicately balanced rightness and vanity.

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