Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hamlet and Providence

This is going to be a short post  because I just finished the first draft of a fifteen page paper on Hamlet. The two most quoted works in the English language are The Bible and Shakespeare. The irony is that Shakespeare himself quoted and alluded to scripture often. I feel quite written out and a bit raw, but I thought I'd share a thought from Hamlet that's strikingly biblical and alludes to Matthew 10:29.  When confronted with his death, Hamlet, believing himself morally justified, gives himself to providence, ready to die if need be.

Not a whit, we defy augury: there’s a special providence in
the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be
not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come:
the readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he leaves,
what is’t to leave betimes, let be.
(Shakespeare V.ii.219-223)

I include Kenneth Branagh's poignant performance:




The more horrible tragedy remains, however, for those of us who believe and see Hamlet's actions in a different moral light. Hamlet, though religious, does not know salvation, and though he thinks himself justified, is both a murderer and avenger. He ends his struggle with moral absolutism by comparing himself to Fortinbras, Claudius, Pyrrhus, and his father, all of whom were violent and unjust men. He surrenders himself to rage and blood lust and, once begun, he wills himself on a path of destruction, blindly calling providence his guide, unaware that he remains unjustified. But in this moment, misguided as he is, he seems to glimpse the soveriegnty of God, though not clearly enough to repent of his actions and prevent the death of two whole families and the political destruction of Denmark.



 

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