Shakespeare's Sly Manipulation Of The Elizabethans

732 words - 3 pages

Shakespeare was clever in his ways to manipulate his audience. He used his vast knowledge of conflicting cultures and religions to capture the attention of the insightful yet perplexed audience. During the time in which Hamlet was written and performed, the Elizabethans were in great religious confusion. They were familiar with the Catholic faith and traditions, but England had only recently officially turned Protestant. Moreover, Hamlet is set in Denmark, but the intended audiences are Englishmen. The contradictory cultures and religions draw the audience intensely into the play. Shakespeare takes the Elizabethans’ transitional vexed state between Catholic to Protestant views as an advantage and produces a play using the differing sides to coax a response from his audience. Among the numerous differences in religion and culture, the issues of suicide, purgatory, and revenge stand out above others.Suicide, a constant struggle in Hamlet, is significantly influenced by religion. Hamlet starts off his first soliloquy by stating that if self-slaughter is be legal in the eyes of God, he would commit suicide. Hamlet's decisions are swayed by a higher authority. The audience relates to the story by agreeing with Hamlet, who believes that suicide leads to eternal damnation. “Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, 'eternal fire" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1035). Suicide, which is considered as wanton and as a mortal sin by Christians, would guarantee a free pass to Hell. The audience is swayed to support Hamlet, who turns to his Christian beliefs in his decision to not kill himself.A major religious confusion at the time was over the afterlife. The ghost of Hamlet’s father claims to be in purgatory. In Catholicism, purgatory is where “after death they [diseased] undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030). In Christian terms, the ghost is doing penance “till the foul crimes done in [his] days of nature / are burnt and purg’d away” (Hamlet 1.5.12-13). The Elizabethans, with their overwhelming knowledge in Catholicism, as opposed to Protestantism, would agree with Hamlet...

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