I like to think of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a revolutionary and advanced man, more than of a flawed man, as liberal humanists would define him. In this short essay, my intention is to show in what ways Hamlet questions Providentialism, why is he perceived as a threat and if his challenge is successful, or it can be claimed that it is finally extinguished with Hamlet’s death. To begin with, Hamlet questions Providentialism at two levels: familiar and political. The first instance where Hamlet challenges Providentialism appears in act I. scene ii, lines 62-67 where Hamlet and Claudius have the first overt disagreement about the quick marriage between his mother, the Queen, and Claudius himself. When Claudius refers to Hamlet as his new son, Hamlet answers: “A little more than kin and less than kind.” What we could see here is that Hamlet is making a distinction between Claudius and himself. It is the first instance in where Hamlet seems to think himself a different kind of person, a person that doesn’t accept a corrupt king who has married his sister-in-law; because at that time, as Jardine mentions in her article “these marriages were unlawful because they were considered incestuous and prohibited by the canon law” (1996:39). But it seems that Hamlet is the only one who is aware of that incestuous and unlawful marriage because when Claudius says: “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” referring to the mourning that Hamlet still seems to wear by his father’s death, Hamlet answers: “Not so, my lord, I am too much I’th’ sun.” Meaning that he can see clearly what is going on. This proves that Hamlet is an individual who thinks by himself and doesn’t accept a system that is corrupt. This model of behaviour it supposed a threat at that time, because individuals weren’t supposed to think by themselves and to question the authority, which in this case is the King who by Providentalist law has been named by God. This makes me think of what Barker thinks about...
Shakespeare, W. Hamlet. Oxford UP.
* Barker, Francis 1992 (1984): “Hamlet’s Unfulfilled Interiority”. New Historicism and Renaissance Drama. Eds. Richard Wilson and Richard Dutton. London: Longman. 157-66.
* Jardine, Lisa 1996: “’No offence i’ th’ world’: Unlawful Marriage in Hamlet.” Reading Shakespeare Historically. London and New York: Routledge. 38-47.
BECOMING A MODERN MAN
Roser Gomez Vila
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