College Buddies and IntellectualismHamlet is called home from Wittenberg, where he had been attending college.  Once home in Denmark, he meets up with Horatio, who had also been a student there. ...

College Buddies and Intellectualism

Hamlet is called home from Wittenberg, where he had been attending college.  Once home in Denmark, he meets up with Horatio, who had also been a student there.  What role do you think education and being an intellectual brings to bear on the action of the play? 

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amy-lepore's profile pic

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

Posted on

Wow!  That's a great point to add to my lecture notes.  I also think that the learned are admired and trusted in the play.  The sentinels in the beginning of the play refuse to speak with the ghost and they call on Horatio to do it because he is the educated one.  There may be something of repression in education, too...especially with regard to Wittenburg (now that I have new knowledge)...since Hamlet is denied permission to go back to school.

Laertes as well is a student and leaves court to seek learning.  Perhaps the stance on education in the play is that learning "the right information" is upheld and admired?  Isn't that true of many pieces of literature, generations, places?  (Smile).

jeff-hauge's profile pic

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

Posted on

Thanks. Wittenburg Unviersity is just south of me here in Ohio. It is always an interesting point of reference to students here that read the play.

To take the point a bit deeper, the Lutheran Reformation led to access to God without... a father figure. (A father figure that Luther never really trusted or felt connected to to begin with.)

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

The name Wittenberg would have resonated strongly with the Elizabethans. This was the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation. Considering the religious unrest England had endured for generations. I believe that Shakespeare was hitting on that nerve strongly. It is not just a matter of education. I believe it was a matter of rebellion as well. The generations that still hung onto the fading connection with the Roman Catholic faith was dwindling. How many members of the audience would have felt that torn resentment as the son/hero in the drama learns new thought, foreign religious practice and discards the ways of the elder generation?

That is an excellent point, Jeff.  I think it imperative for true understanding of any text to try to get a grasp on the cultural forces at work.  None of us live in a vacuum, not even Shakespeare.  The choice of Wittenberg certainly wasn't arbitrary.  Thanks for the reminder of this important detail. 

jeff-hauge's profile pic

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

Posted on

The name Wittenberg would have resonated strongly with the Elizabethans. This was the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation. Considering the religious unrest England had endured for generations. I believe that Shakespeare was hitting on that nerve strongly. It is not just a matter of education. I believe it was a matter of rebellion as well. The generations that still hung onto the fading connection with the Roman Catholic faith was dwindling. How many members of the audience would have felt that torn resentment as the son/hero in the drama learns new thought, foreign religious practice and discards the ways of the elder generation?

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