The Role of Religion
The Role of Religion. Various thematic issues have been looked at in Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark, a play written by Shakespeare. Shakespeare seeks to explore the power feuds and love in the society mainly, things that do affect us even currently. However, one important theme Shakespeare looks into is the theme of religion in the social setting at the time of writing of the play. This is brought out clearly in the article ‘The significance of religion in Hamlet’, by Omar Abdulaziz. Omar sets out to explain how religion influenced the characters and the motives of various individuals in the play.
Omar summarizes how religion was a fundamental factor that influenced the decision of the characters in the play. Horatio is religious as he prays for Hamlet after Hamlet comes from a discussion with the ghost of his father. Hamlet’s father’s ghost reveals, to Hamlet, the sins he committed and described how to kill Claudius, stating clearly that the killing is for a supreme purpose: to eradicate incest (referring to the Claudius having married his wife, which was considered incest at the time.) Hamlet is also deemed to be strongly religious CITATION Als12 p 133 l 2057 (Alsaif 133). Hamlet does not kill Claudius immediately, even after finding out that Claudius killed his father. Hamlet considers the fact that his father’s ghost may be an evil spirit sent to tempt him to sin. This acknowledges the fact that there is a belief of the evil spirits causing humans to sin which is a religious belief. Since Hamlet considers her mother having committed ‘incest’ by marrying Claudius, he loses all trust in women and considers the nunnery the best place for a chaste and good woman. His advances towards Ophelia stop suddenly, and he even advises her to go to the nunnery that implies that maybe Hamlet has also decided on being celibate. In the Middle Ages, the crowing of the cock symbolized the dispersal of the evil spirits as cited by Omar Abdulaziz. The fact that the cock crows n the play makes Hamlet hesitant to believe in his father’s spirit as he thinks t might be an evil spirit that may have come in the good form to tempt him. This makes Hamlet indecisive on his next course of action which naturally he is not. Religion seems to be followed to the letter. When Ophelia dies, the priest harshly refuses to treat her like the rest of the people who died naturally, since her death was doubtful, and she was to be buried in an unsanctified ground. Abdulaziz also cites that Shakespeare has taken into consideration other Grecian religious figures, like ‘Hyperion’, ‘Niobe’ among others CITATION Als12 p 134 l 2057 (Alsaif 134).
The main idea of the argument in this article by Abdulaziz is the role of religion in life and the decisions made by the characters in the play. Abdulaziz has evidently succeeded to show how religion has affected the behavior and decisions of the characters in the play, Hamlet. Religion had a very great effect on society at the time of writing of the play by Shakespeare. The characters make calculated steps, mainly regarding the laws of the religion at the instituted at the time. Hamlet’s indecisiveness is attributed to religion. The priest’s decision on the burial of Ophelia in unchaste grounds too is attributed to the rules of the religion as she is claimed to have died ‘unnatural death’ CITATION Als12 p 134 l 2057 (Alsaif 134). Abdulaziz does not refute the fact that Shakespeare has mentioned some Grecian icons some of which have been mentioned above.
On the basis of religion, Abdulaziz has shown how everyone ends up being punished for one’s wrongdoings. Various characters that erred have ended up facing hard times and eventually dying. In Hamlet, Claudius, who according to the religion of the time, committed incest, and even took the king’s throne is eventually killed by Prince Hamlet, who considers it as revenge for his father’s killing. However, in reality, it is a punishment for killing the king and marrying his wife, and worse still, for plotting the killing of Hamlet. Laertes, who had joined Claudius to plan the killing of Hamlet, is also stabbed to death by Hamlet. Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, having accepted to marry her brother-in-law pays for her mistakes by drinking the poison prepared for her son by Claudius and dies too. All those who had evil and unreligious plots paid for them by the end of the play. Prince Hamlet, I think, is just a victim of circumstances, as he dies too in the quest of seeking vengeance for his father’s ghost. Clearly, as portrayed in the Hamlet, those who do not regard the rules of the religion end up suffering and paying for their ‘unchaste ways.’
Religion is a very important issue, both at the time of writing of the play and presently. Religion serves as a guide for the making of the best decisions even now in our lives. As shown in the Hamlet, religion must be respected for our survival. Failing to heed to religion is calling for our downfall.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Alsaif, Omar Abdulaziz. “The significance of religion in Hamlet.” Journal of English and Literature 3.6 (2012): 132-135. Print.