Is there a religious dimension to the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet? Yes indeed. And many literary critics attest to this. This religious dimension will be the subject of the present essay.
In his Introduction to Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet, Harold Bloom finds the Bible in this drama:
Horatio, then, represents by way of our positive association with him; it is a commonplace, but not less true for that, to say that Hamlet represents by negation. I think this negation is Biblical in origin, which is why it seems so Freudian to us, because Freudian negation is Biblical and not Hegelian, as it were. Hamlet is Biblical rather than Homeric or Sophoclean. Like the Hebrew hero confronting Yahweh, Hamlet needs to be everything in himself yet knows the sense in which he is nothing in himself. (5)
The first soliloquy, or “act of talking to oneself, whether silently or aloud” (Abrams 289), occurs when the hero is left alone after the royal social gathering in the room of state in the castle of Elsinore. He is dejected by the “o’erhasty marriage” of his mother to his uncle less than two months after the funeral of Hamlet’s father (Gordon 128). His first soliloquy emphasizes two religious/moral themes: the corruption of the world at large, and the frailty of women – an obvious reference to his mother’s hasty and incestuous marriage to her husband’s brother:
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month--
Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!—(1.2)
The first soliloquy ends with the arrival of Horatio, the hero’s closest friend (“Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man / As e'er my conversation coped withal.”), and Marcellus, who escort the prince to the ramparts of Elsinore to view the ghost of Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet, which they have seen. At one a.m. the ghost, ironically a sinner suffering in the afterlife (West 110), reveals to the protagonist the extent of the evil within Elsinore, “the human truth” (Abrams 467). The Ghost says that King Hamlet was murdered by Claudius, who had a relationship with Gertrude prior to the murder; the ghost requests a “restorative”...