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Smiling Through the Cultural CatastropheToward the Revival of Higher Education$
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Jeffrey Hart

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780300087048

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300087048.001.0001

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Hamlet's Great Song

Hamlet's Great Song

(p.169) Chapter Eight Hamlet's Great Song
Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe

Jeffrey Hart

Yale University Press

This chapter turns to Shakespeare's Hamlet, a place by design, but as Cambridge scholar E.M.W. Tillyard pointed out: the finest English epic poem in a sequence of five-act history plays rather than the familiar epic form since Homer. The chapter explores the development of Shakespeare in the background of the Renaissance and how that influenced Hamlet. For one, although Christian interpretation of the universe was fairly firm and dominant, for Shakespeare and his contemporaries other strong views existed and competed with one another. Shakespeare, after all, was greatly interested in experimenting with new ways of viewing the world and in seeing how they worked out in action. The chapter compares Hamlet with the figure of Aeneas, and further studies the conflict between the classical and Christian traditions, and how they remain central to Western civilizations.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Hamlet, E.M.W. Tillyard, English epic poem, Renaissance, Aeneas, Christian traditions

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