how big of a role is religion in Hamlet? : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

how big of a role is religion in hamlet? i know its part of the delay, but does it affect the other charecters

-- Tee Hamm (, November 18, 2002


In brief: huge role, yes it does. If this is for an essay, when's it due? ... seriously ... I for one will have more time in a week from now.

-- catherine england (, November 22, 2002.

Well, in case this is still of use (and just post, or email me, if you want any of it explained):

All the beliefs about the ghost are based in religion, or at least religion-related superstition. The problem with Gertrude's marriage to Claudius being incestuous is grounded in religion - it was sinful to marry Claudius, her husband's brother. Gertrude eventually (from III.iv) turns from Claudius in large part for this reason. Religion is the inspiration for Claudius' attempt to pray for forgiveness in III.iii, and particular religious beliefs stop Hamlet from killing him in the same scene. Ophelia's madness, death and burial are affected by religion. The first two, I think, are partly brought on by it. III.i shows us she's quite sincerely pious. A lot of her stuff in IV.v has religious undertones. According to Gertrude, she sings bits of hymns as she's drowning. She isn't allowed a full Christian funeral and burial. Laertes decides to toss religion out in favour of taking revenge on Hamlet, but in the end takes it back on board, exchanging forgiveness with Hamlet. It's the major reason why Hamlet won't kill himself. It's Hamlet's reconciling of God's power with his own which enables him to get on with life, and death, in Act V. Throughout, Hamlet seems fascinated that God created something with such wonderful beauty and potential, but it getss screwed up; which brings to mind a one-liner I heard recently: if there's a god, he's an under-achiever.

Without religion (in a broad term, Christianity, that is) the story just couldn't happen.

-- catherine england (, November 28, 2002.

I think that religion has nopart to play in Hamlet. Hamnlet appears to be an absolute bomber, especially in the Branagh version. One critic said Hamlet is a "bad man."

-- Bomber Connell (, February 27, 2003.

Religion clearly causes unnecesary problems for Hamlet as he is 100% bomberish and religion is not a bomber like subject. I think he should stick to his own bomber like philosophie thus remaining a bomber.

-- Bomber (, February 27, 2003.

Come to think of it, Hamlet said he was a bad man too. So at least he admitted it.

-- catherine england (, March 02, 2003.

Hamlet may be seen as imoral or a "bad man" but he aknowledges his faults and by doing this you can see that he cares for religiouse morals even if he doesnt follow them.

-- natasha kirwan (, April 10, 2003.

Hamlet is the best. he may have murdered polonius and claudius, but he knew it was wrong, and they were horrible guys anyway. we need more pple like hamlet because he is honest, very intelligent and he's the only one in the play who has morals!

-- Crash (, September 27, 2003.

BULLSHIT! Where is all this theory about Hamlet being a paragon of virtue coming from!!?? The only one in the play that has morals? What bunkum. Hamlet is a self-centred bastard at times. He also displays on occasion a complete disregard for the feelings of others. And his spontanious tendencies of killing (or threatening to kill) whomever might stand in his way between the moment and his objective is hardly a display of morals. Hamlet's personal ideals and morals, one could say are his weakness. Hamlet holds Horatio as an example of the greater man, quite clearly expressed in his speech in III.ii. All this talk of Hamlet being the "hero" of the play and everyone else as being "against Hamlet" or "Hamlet's enemy" is not helpful at all. I hold Branagh's film partly responsible for this. We don't say the same things about Shakespeare's other tragic protagonists. It isn't Hamlet against the world. Forget that shit. The only one with morals, I ask again?!?

-- Patrick Walker (, September 27, 2003.

I agree with you Patrick. It's isn't any of this Hamlet against the world shit! Throughout the play nearly everyone expressed worry for the 'mad' Hamlet. Most actually cared about what had brought on this madness. Gertrude and Ophelia become pawns in this, because they care, not because they're out to get Hamlet. Horatio stands by Hamlet and is not against him. Marcellus keeps his oath to tell no one, when if he was against him, he could have easily told the King. R & G are there to do the King's bidding, but they are also there to discover the cause of Hamlet's 'madness' not to kill him etc. The only one that perhaps was out to get him was Claudius, and even this I doubt. Throughout the play, with the exception of murderering his brother, Claudius displays the qualities of a good king. His negotiations with Norway, his treatment of Laertes. The first scence with Claudius captures his good qualities. Perhaps Claudius was out to 'get' Hamlet, but only to protect himself, not to take Hamlet out of the picture.

And on the question of Hamlet being a 'bad man'. Hamlet's morals and ideals are driven by his own passion. Hamlet himself tell's Horatio, just before the 'play' scene that all men are passion's slaves.

"Give me a man, Horatio, that is not passion's slave and I will wear him in my heart, ay, in my heart of hearts as I do thee."

Hamlet here admits that he himself falls prey to passion and his desire. So yes, because he is under passion's influcence, his morals are askew.

-- Rachel Hatton (, September 28, 2003.

obviously you can't appreciate the pressure hamlet was under, and as for this "other pple's feelings" crap, feelings are overrated, and he was a teenager, so what did you expect him to do with feelings? I know there is lots of proof you can throw around about how hamlet admired horatio and was messed up, but the fact remains; he was intelligent, witty, clever, and if he weren't under such the circumstances he was (his mother getting married to his uncle, his friends betraying him, his girlfriend being a waif) i'm sure he would have made less rash decisions. besides, who do you think is better than Hamlet in 'hamlet'? Polonius?

-- crash (, October 06, 2003.

Bla bla bla, yeah yeah yeah, booorrrring.

So it's all down to goodies vs baddies for you, isn't it? A tragic hero can only be witty, intelligent and clever. And any aspects of their personality that are not virtuous, any displays of unkindness or moments that force us, the audience/reader, to feel antipathy instead of affection, discomfort instead of admiration, are to be swept under the carpet with a shrug and a remark such as "well, he was under pressure". You clearly have no understanding of Shakespeare or even human nature. If you want lovable, heroic protagonists, go and watch Indiana Jones or something. I almost regret giving your ridiculous letter credence by responding to it. Especially when you write such silly childish-crap comments such as "who do you think is 'better than Hamlet' in 'hamlet'?" And as for your addle-brained, puerile remarks about his "friends betraying him" and his "waif girlfriend", don't even start me on it.

And I don't doubt for a minute that it was you that sent me that very bad, unwitty insulting email at the same time that your post appeared here.

Sod off.

-- Patrick Walker (, October 07, 2003.

gee patrick you're being really hasty i agree wtih crash too hamlet is not a bad guy he was just under bad circumstances accusing people of writing weird emails is childish too plus this is a message board for legitimate, calm hamlet discussion, not profanity becaus eyou don't agree with someone's opinion. you need to calm down, i think we here all see that. unless you're a professor or great author i'm tempted to disregard you're opinion. besides, hamlet is open for interpretation. and insulting people's vocabularies and grammar is stupid and kinda points out the fact that you're just trying to be mean mean isn't nice please don't

-- Cindy (, October 07, 2003.

Have to say Patrick: I do agree with Cindy in that one can go too far in clubbing people on the head with one's opinion, and this is a forum for reasonably civilized discussion. Could you let your ideas be louder than your words? Best, Catherine.

-- catherine england (, October 07, 2003.

I never said he wasn't a good guy. Not once. I am also accusing him of writing me weird emails because the sender of the email stated that it was due to me "dissing Hamlet" and "having no respect for him" or some shit like that. So to Hell with your charges of "childish accusations".

And finally where am I insulting anyone's grammar or vocabularies? On that point I have NO idea what you are talking about.

Anyway, it seems a shame that the core of my reply above has been blantantly ignored and instead I'm being ripped apart because I told an idiot to "sod off".

-- Patrick Walker (, October 08, 2003.

I doubt very much that any of you (with perhaps the exception of the terribly mild mannered Catherine) know anything that would compare to Patricks knowledge of the play. And I would harldly call any of that profanity...he didn't exactly say "cunt" or anything, did he?

We all know Shakespeare was fond of profanity, so we're all cool with it, aren't we?

Heeee. This all makes me giggle.

-- Sarah Tittlemouse (, October 08, 2003.

Well, I'm condemning my vocabulary: what the hell is 'dissing'?

-- catherine england (, October 09, 2003.

"Dissing", Catherine, is a horrible English slang term, used to mean "berating" or "criticising". I don't use it myself. But according to my two email threats, I have, apparantly, been "dissing" Hamlet, because "he rules" and I "don't"!

-- Patrick Walker (, October 09, 2003.

you seem like a bit of a drama queen patrick. You need to calm it down. The people who love Hamlet aren't the ones on a bunk hamlet message board, they're out in the real world reading intelligent literature. lol just the fact that i know you will respond to this email makes me laugh. I can bet on you're response containing the words "bullshit" or something like "she said i didn't 'rule'" wtf so go on...respond...prove how much of an immature twit you are.

-- Orlando (, October 10, 2003.

Got a better idea: I'll do it for him. You know, it is possible to do both the intelligent literature reading and the message board contributing. Me? BA with English and History majors, MA with Merit in History, now doing PhD in Renaissance History. Compared with the amount of detritus that certainly is out there on the net, this is a pleasant and entertaining site, which is also often thought provoking, and which some people find helpful. I don't think WS would be snooty about this form of popular culture.

-- catherine england (, October 10, 2003.

eeeeeeeeerrrrmmmmmmm, how shuld i begin. I'll start by saying wat the fuck are u guys talking about. How sad can u get, debating over how big of a role religion plays in Hamlet. Hamlet lived one hell of a long time ago, shit i don't even know and my mates call me a boffin. Hey you guys this is the 21st century not the 160,000,000 BC u sad pieces of shit. I cood go on but i can't be bothered to spend any more of my valuable time talking to you load of turds.I'd rather eat a fucking piranha alive than talk to you lot of whooped asses. Thats all i have to say but before i exit, i'd just like to say that that guy going on about Hmalet being a self centered batsard, well personally i think you'll find that you are actually. oh yeh and wat the hell is bunkum???????? you twats!!!!! I'll Eat You Alive!!!!!!!!

-- wat the crap???????? (, October 10, 2003.

You're all a set of dickheads. I like Catherine, despite our differences, but the rest of you just haven't got a clue. You haven't a clue about Shakespeare, about Hamlet, and think Kenneth Branagh's goody-two shoes performance is the be all and end all of everything. And yes, I like a bit of a swear too. So arseholes.

-- Patrick Walker (, October 10, 2003.

Seeing as my excellent and utterly intelligent answer several replies back was overlooked by the Prince Hamlet Fan Brigade, who chose instead to blast me with accusations of insolence and arrogance, I shall post the same letter again. Then hopefully we can pick up where we left off. I have watered down a bit in an effort to keep you all 'cooled down'.

"...So it's all down to goodies vs baddies for you, isn't it? A tragic 'hero' can only be 'witty, intelligent and clever'. And any aspects of their personality that are not virtuous, any displays of unkindness or moments that force us, the audience/reader, to feel antipathy instead of affection, discomfort instead of admiration, are to be swept under the carpet with a shrug and a remark such as "well, he was under pressure". There are too many instances in Hamlet that encourage us to think of Hamlet as being something other than the "great paragon of virtue" you all seem to think he is. As I stated above, we make no exceptions of Shakespeare's other tragic protagonists. Such silly childish-crap comments such as "who do you think is 'better than Hamlet' in 'hamlet'?" are not even worth giving credence to. Nor are your puerile remarks about his 'friends betraying him' and his 'waif girlfriend'..."

(Also, I might add, in reply to the fellow who wrote the stupid letter above, that "bunkum" means "empty talk" or "nonsense")

-- Patrick Walker (, October 11, 2003.

Well, I just think I've already said what I think about Hamlet on questions more directly about him. This one's about religion, though I think maybe it says something that even on a question not about him we still end up talking about him. Goody or Baddy, he fascinates us all, and that's what's really notable. Why does he? Because he's human. Not goody, or baddy. Human. An image in a mirror held up to nature. That, of course, means he's complicated. I've never said he's perfect, or an epitome of virtue. I do think, though, that allowances can be made for his mistakes and unkindnesses, indeed because he is young and 'under pressure', and because I think he means to do right. I can't speak for others, but I do myself also make allowances for WS's other 'tragic protagonists'. This for me is the beauty of WS's tragedies: the leads aren't two-dimensional 'tragic heroes', any more than the villains are all bad. Rather, each of WS's plays is a bit of the world, and his characters are a few of the people in it.

-- catherine england (, October 11, 2003.

Thankyou Catherine. I agree wholeheartedly with your reply. However, it was not directed at you at all, but rather at two or three other forum users above that frustrated me somewhat. So, no, nothing in my post was aimed at aught you have said. But thankyou.

-- Patrick Walker (, October 11, 2003.

There is also Hamlet's reluctance to commit suicide, "O that this too sullied flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew; Or that the Everlasting had not fixed his canon 'gainst self-slaughter." He wishes to die but is, apparently, stopped by Gods law against it. Though i must admit, as the play draws on, wether this actually has more to do with Hamlet's own reluctance to commit himself to any course of action. He does have the tendancy to come across as an angsty teenager at times.

-- Justin Waite (, April 09, 2004.

The role of religion in Hamlet only causes a flow of the way things collapse in the end. For example, if Hamlet wasn't concerned with religion he wouldv'e killed Claudius the first chance he got, and as it presented itself the first chance happened to be when Claudius was praying. Although this presented a problem since the RELIGIOUS belief was that since Claudius was praying killing him at that moment would send him to heaven. Building a problem with Hamlet. Hamlet was a philosopher and defenetly not a man of action, would ironically lead to him killing most of the people in the end. Without religion, people would have died a normal "murder" death. Religion caused an uproar at the end. Making it the ultimate....Hamlet.

-- Lizz (, January 06, 2005.

There is, though, also what religion means for Claudius, for Gertrude, for Ophelia, for Horatio, for the Ghost. I think that makes it a bit more complicated, and central to the play, its developments and meanings.

-- catherine england (, January 06, 2005.

I think that the most interesting effects that religion have on the play are Hamlet's decision not to commit suicide(if he had done so off the bat, there would be no tragedy), Hamlet's decision not to kill Claudius durring prayer (for fear of sending him to heaven), and Ophelia's death. Question: Does anyone have opinions on Ophelia? Was she an innocent victem, jaded and used by those around her,or is there something beyond her pious facade?

-- Laura (, March 10, 2005.

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