The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0480 Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Date: Tuesday, 15 Mar 2005 09:45:26 -0600
Subject: 16.0472 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment: RE: SHK 16.0472 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Abigail Quart writes ". . . thoughtful Hamlet is from Protestant
Wittenburg. 95-theses-on-a-church-door Wittenburg. Rash Laertes,
however, returns from Catholic Paris. St.-Bartholomew's-Day-Massacre
Paris. Shakespeare couldn't have drawn a clearer, more deliberate contrast."
I have some problems with this "deliberate contrast." In the first
place, Laertes seems to be headed for Paris primarily to enjoy its
fleshpots (ugly term, that) as only a wealthy young gentleman can. At
least, that's what his father thinks (and very likely his sister as well).
In the second, though Hamlet is indeed attending the university in
Wittenberg, that fact simply throws us into the Never-Never-Land of
Shakespearean locale, since the University of Wittenberg did not exist
at the time that Amlethus is supposed to have lived. So, where are we in
this play: early medieval Denmark? Renaissance Denmark? Some/any/no place?
Of course, it doesn't matter as long as it makes good theatre. But it
does matter if you start making deductions from its being some specific
place, in this case, the point from which Luther began what became the
These points do not disprove the idea that the two locales provide a
thematic contrast of Protestant-Hamlet versus Catholic-Laertes, but they
do suggest that the idea is a good deal shakier AQ claims
PS: I think one easy definition of Protestant in Shakespeare's time
would be a holder of beliefs that would get you burned at the stake
under a Catholic monarch.
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