Hamlet

Alasdair MacIntyre mentions Hamlet in After Virtue where he talks of human life as a narrative…
“Or consider again how one narrative may be embedded in another.In both plays and novels there are well-known examples: the play within the play Hamlet,”
Pope Paul VI said when reflecting in a private note in 1978 about himself:
“What is my state of mind? Am I Hamlet? Or Don Quixote? On the left? On the right? I do not think I have been properly understood.”

Hamlet – a philosophical perspective from wikipedia
Hamlet is often perceived as a philosophical character, expounding ideas that are now described as relativist, existentialist, and sceptical. For example, he expresses a subjectivistic idea when he says to Rosencrantz: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. The idea that nothing is real except in the mind of the individual finds its roots in the Greek Sophists, who argued that since nothing can be perceived except through the senses—and since all individuals sense, and therefore perceive, things differently—there is no absolute truth, only relative truth. The clearest alleged instance of existentialism is in the “to be, or not to be” speech, where Hamlet is thought by some to use “being” to allude to life and action, and “not being” to death and inaction.
Hamlet reflects the contemporary scepticism promoted by the French Renaissance humanist, Montaigne. Prior to Montaigne’s time, humanists such as Pico della Mirandola had argued that man was God’s greatest creation, made in God’s image and able to choose his own nature, but this view was subsequently challenged in Michel de Montaigne’s Essais of 1580. Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is a man” echoes many of Montaigne’s ideas, but scholars disagree whether Shakespeare drew directly from Montaigne or whether both men were simply reacting similarly to the spirit of the times.
In his openness to embrace the message of the ghost, Hamlet assuages Horatio’s wonderment with the analytical assertion, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet – a religious perspective from wikipedia
Written at a time of religious upheaval, and in the wake of the English Reformation, the play is alternately Catholic (or piously medieval) and Protestant (or consciously modern). The Ghost describes himself as being in purgatory, and as dying without last rites. This and Ophelia’s burial ceremony, which is characteristically Catholic, make up most of the play’s Catholic connections. Some scholars have observed that revenge tragedies come from traditionally Catholic countries, such as Spain and Italy; and they present a contradiction, since according to Catholic doctrine the strongest duty is to God and family. Hamlet’s conundrum, then, is whether to avenge his father and kill Claudius, or to leave the vengeance to God, as his religion requires.
Much of the play’s Protestantism derives from its location in Denmark—both then and now a predominantly Protestant country, though it is unclear whether the fictional Denmark of the play is intended to mirror this fact. The play does mention Wittenberg, where Hamlet, Horatio, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern attend university, and where Martin Luther first proposed his 95 theses in 1517, effectively ushering in the Protestant Reformation. In Shakespeare’s day Denmark, as the majority of Scandinavia, was Lutheran.

MacIntyre critique of modernity explained through narrative

An action is a moment in a possible or actual history or in a number of such histories.The notion of a history is as fundamental a notion as the notion of an action.Each requires the other. But I cannot say this without noticing that it is precisely this that Sartre denies – as indeed his whole theory of the self, which captures so well the spirit of modernity, requires that he should…
…What I have called a history is an enacted dramatic narrative in which the characters are also the authors.The characters ofcourse never start literally ab initio; they plunge in medias res, the beginnings of their story already made for them by what and who has gone before…
Ofcourse just as they do not begin where they please, they cannot go on exactly as they please either , each character is constrained by the actions of others and by the social settings presupposed in his and their actions, a point forcible made by Marx in the classical, if not entirely satisfactory account account of human life as enacted dramatic narrative, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.
I call Marx’s account less than satisfactory partly because he wishes to present the narrative of human social life in a way that will be compatible with a view of the life as law-governed and predictable in a particular way. But it is crucial that at any given point in an enacted dramatic narative we do not know what will happen next…
This unpredictability coexists with a second crucial characteristic of all lived naratives, a certain teleological character. We live out our lives, both individually and in our relationships with each other, in the light of certain conceptions of a possible shared future in which certain possibilties beckon us forward and others repel us, some seem already foreclosed and others perhaps inevitable.There is no present which is not informed by some image of some future and an image of the future which always presents itself in the form of a telos – or a variety of ends or goals – towards which we are either moving or failing to move in the present. Unpredictability and teleology therefore coexist as part of our lives; like characters in a fictional narrative we do not know what will happen next, but nonetheless our lives have a certain form which projects itself towards our future.

 

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