Chapter

Questioning the Human: <i>Hamlet</i>

Andy Mousley

in Re-Humanising Shakespeare

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780748623181
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652211 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623181.003.0002
Questioning the Human: Hamlet

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This chapter explores the acceptable version of scepticism that is embodied in the figure of Hamlet. Ophelia's folklore is an anthropomorphicisation of nature and at the same time an affirmation of the ‘objective’ existence of perennial human feelings. Hamlet is the fictional equivalent of Shakespeare himself in his inheritance of a variety of traditions. Each of these traditions advances an idea of what human nature is or should be. Hamlet questions both limits and limitlessness, ‘nature’ and the eradication of nature. In Hamlet, freedom often equates to aimlessness and an ‘anything goes’ form of relativism. Hamlet is mocking mockery's tendency towards satire, cynicism and emptiness. The existential tremble which the graveyard sets off in Hamlet – the realisation that life ends or may end in only skull, bone and worm-eaten flesh – provokes an awareness of the need for humans to cling to each other for comfort.

Keywords: scepticism; Hamlet; Ophelia; human feelings; Shakespeare; relativism

Chapter.  6027 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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