How do Hamlet's problems and his character in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet serve as a document of and introduction to the changes that occurred during the Renaissance?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Hamlet's problems and his character in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet serve as a document of and introduction to the changes that occurred during the Renaissance in the way that they reflect a new concept of selfhood and the importance of the individual. The theater of medieval Europe and Britain had relied extensively on stock characters, often with no names, and had plots that emphasized narrative arc rather than the interiority of individual characters. By contrast, Hamlet is portrayed as a modern individual, engaging in introspection, and looking at ethical decisions from his own perspective as a unique person rather than leaning on precedent or religious authority. This can be seen in the way he debates with himself in his famous soliloquy:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether 't is nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing, end them? (III.i.55-59)

As opposed to a medieval worldview, in which there was a fixed order to the human world mirroring the divine world, in Hamlet, everything is open to doubt.

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