Hamlet and Islam

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William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is one of his most famous works and the issues and themes raised in the play are timeless. Throughout the play, Hamlet seems to be constantly struggling both internally and with external forces. His view of life itself and the struggles and obstacles it presents is significantly influenced by the fact that he is Christian living in a Christian society. However, through the lens’ of other religions, such as Buddhism and Islam, Hamlet’s view on life and its obstacles may not have been any easier to deal with, but he would have certainly dealt with life’s “slings and arrows” (p. 127) differently. In a conversation with Ophelia which occurs at the start of Act III, Hamlet essentially expresses the view that man is inherently bad. Though he never explicitly states this, he does say to Ophelia that she should lead a celibate life and join a convent so that she does not become “a breeder of sinners”. This statement is powerful because no one would ever make such a statement unless he believed both man and life to be full of suffering. He goes onto say that he considers himself a fairly virtuous person and yet he himself has done and thought so many awful things that he feels it would have been better for everyone had his mother never given birth to him. He then lists what he sees as some of his flaws including being “proud, revengeful, ambitious…”. He asks the question, “What should fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven?” He does not ask the question hoping for a response. Rather, the question only demonstrates not only his Christian perspective on life and death (the state of purgatory), but also his view that while he’s not perfect, he still is not destined for hell. Through the perspective of other religious traditions, his view would certainly not be the same. Buddhism’s central tenet is that life is full of suffering and it is full of suffering because we want and when we do not get what we want, we suffer. Therefore,...
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