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Hamlet Religion Quotes

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Quote #1

Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet: I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg. (1.2.118-119)

"Wittenberg" is shorthand for "Protestant," since that's the city and university where Martin Luther wrote his Ninety-five Theses. But the play can't seem to make up its mind about whether or not the play is set in a Catholic or Protestant world—just like England itself, throughout most of the 16th century.

Quote #2

I am thy father's spirit,Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,And for the day confined to fast in fires,Till the foul crimes done in my days of natureAre burnt and purged away. (1.5.9-13)

Hmm. This is interesting. The Ghost not only claims to be Hamlet's "father's spirit"; it also suggests that it's a Purgatorial ghost. Purgatory was often imagined as a fiery place where souls "purged away" their sins before going to heaven. Major difference, though: Purgatorial spirits returned to ask loved ones for prayers that could help them reach heaven faster. This ghost? He's a little more interested in revenge.

Quote #3

Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. (1.5.25)

Purgatorial spirits weren't in the habit of asking living relatives to murder other people (murder being a major sin for both Protestants and Catholics) to help them get to heaven. That's more along the lines of a vengeful ghost. Is Shakespeare just picking and choosing? Or is he purposefully weaving together multiple literary and cultural traditions?

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