What is the role of religion in Hamlet?

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When looking at the role of religion in the play Hamlet, you might want to point out that it is not a typical religious play. However, religion still plays an important role, as it is frequently mentioned throughout.

For example, religion occasionally determines the way people act. This can...

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When looking at the role of religion in the play Hamlet, you might want to point out that it is not a typical religious play. However, religion still plays an important role, as it is frequently mentioned throughout.

For example, religion occasionally determines the way people act. This can be seen when Hamlet contemplates killing Claudius but then chooses not to because he is aware of the fact that Claudius is praying. Hamlet believes in heaven and hell, and he wants to ensure that Claudius goes to hell. He fears that Claudius might end up in heaven if he dies while praying:

And am I then revenged
To take him in the purging of his soul
When he is fit and season'd for his passage? (3.3.85–87)

You could, therefore, argue that it is Hamlet’s religious belief that prevents Claudius’s murder at this point in the play.

Another example of religion playing an important role in the play is in the character of Claudius. Not only do we see him praying in the scene described above, but he also refers to his faith later on. For example, he believes firmly that God will protect him:

Do not fear our person.
There’s such divinity doth hedge a king
That treason can but peep to what it would,
Acts little of his will. (4.5.97–100)

Because of this erroneous religious belief, Claudius acts the way he does and he still feels invincible. Therefore, you could argue that Shakespeare uses religion in order to show how it impacts and influences peoples. In the case of Claudius, you could claim that Shakespeare shows his audience how powerful people try to abuse religion in order to justify their actions.

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