Hamlet and Humanism College

Hamlet: A Picture of Renaissance Humanism

The renaissance was an era of great change in philosophical thought and morality. Before the 15th century, monastic scholasticism had dominated European thinking. Monasticism’s emphasis on a black and white system of morality, which relied on a dogmatic and narrow interpretation of Christian theology, created a system that valued rules and regulations over inherent understandings of right and wrong. Yet as Greek and Latin texts began to surface in Italy during the 15th century, a fundamental shift in thinking began to occur. The idea that the human experience should be studied to advance and develop moral understanding began to take form. Yet as the shackles of a rule based morality system began to be overthrown, philosophers and writers were faced with a new danger, moral nihilism. In England, William Shakespeare tackled the evolving social and moral changes introduced by the renaissance in his play, Hamlet. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet character is a personification of the evolution of philosophical humanism into moral nihilism, and this is shown through Hamlet's initial quest for revenge, his inner search for the truth of his father's murder, and his eventual hollow revenge over...

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