Award Date

August 2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Committee Member

Richard Harp

Second Committee Member

Timothy Erwin

Third Committee Member

Donald Revell

Fourth Committee Member

Margaret Harp

Number of Pages

247

Abstract

This study proposes a reading of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a pilgrimage of the soul. There has been a consistent strain in Shakespeare scholarship which seeks to understand Hamlet and its peculiarly universal appeal in terms of its evocation of the human condition. Some examples of such commentary: Hamlet abounds in the disease imagery and is suffused with a mysterious sense of doom; it is the only play in Shakespeare with an explicit reference to Christmas; it evokes the medieval cycle plays which enacted the entire salvation history from the Creation of the world to the Last Judgment; and the play reverberates with philosophical and spiritual questions of perennial relevance. Building on this tradition, this study suggests that the play’s subject matter is fundamentally that of Milton’s Paradise Lost: “Of Man’s First Disobedience, and the Fruit / Of that Forbidden Tree whose mortal taste / Brought Death into the World, and all our woe, / With loss of Eden, till one greater Man / Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat.” The play’s description of the murder and seduction of Hamlet’s parents echoes the Fall in the Garden of Eden and Cain's murder of Abel, its opening scene invokes the central salvation event of “our Saviour’s birth,” and its catastrophe evokes Doomsday. Against such mythic and cosmic background, and while remaining an exciting revenge tragedy, the play presents a paradigm of human life in which its protagonist – a kind of Mankind figure – journeys through life’s manifold trials and encounters toward the ultimate goal of salvation. Against great odds Hamlet perseveres against the powers of evil, discharges his duty as a revenge hero and rids the world of the source of evil, and goes to his rest.

Keywords

Claudius; character of; Gertrude; character of; Ghost; character of; Middle Ages; influence of; Ophelia; character of; Walsingham ballad

Disciplines

English Language and Literature

Language

English

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