Humanism & Shakespeare Essay

828 words - 3 pages

Perhaps one of the most influential artists characterizing Renaissance Humanism in their work is William Shakespeare. He produced as many as thirty-seven plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems and miscellaneous verse before his death in 1616 (Gaines). In studying his work, numerous authors have found that it is one of the truest representations of the Renaissance Humanism movement. This movement identifies with a shift from the medieval movement, which mostly focused on god and faith, to a more individual approach to life. The focus was more about the human experiences and the optimistic attitude about what people really understood about themselves. In "Renaissance Humanism" Michelle Lee puts together numerous quotes from many authors analyzing the work produced during the humanism movement. The cited material in the article consistently continues to refer back to Shakespeare; how most of his work embodies the humanist thought process. For a Humanist the purpose of cultivating reason was to lead a better understanding of how to act. Many of the reasons cited throughout the article focus on two subjects, divine providence and human free will. Both Paul Siegel and Richard Mallette quote that Shakespeare's work is a reflection of the Elizabethan worldview of his time. Mike Pincombe states that in the play Hamlet, the character of Hamlet is a literary humanist, a man of the theater and a Dane and all three of these traits would evoke a certain stereotype to the audience in the Elizabethan Era. To the audience they would see the man as one who had classical learning, a refinement about oneself, respectable, highly educated, kind, and urbanized. All of these traits are ones that come through the character of Hamlet. Calvinism and Martin Luther were also highly debated and recognized around this same time. Richard Mallette states that in writing Hamlet, Shakespeare concentrates on Hamlet's irresolvable internal debate between salvation and his conscience, the work figuratively interrogates the Calvinist belief in providential determinism - that the faithful will be saved and all others will be condemned to hell. Patrick Grant states that the Shakespeare tragedies embody an exhaustive end-phase of Renaissance humanism reflection by expressing a finalizing disappointment in the vast gulf between the presumably limitless power of the liberated human imagination and the failure to see the ultimate truth. Hamlet is never certain if what the ghost was telling him was the truth of not. Neil Rhodes states that his work represents the embodiment and critique...

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