Hamlet was written in the first part of the 17
century during the Renaissance, which revived Greek and Latin texts that had been lost during the Middle Ages.
Scholars who discovered these classical texts were driven by educational and political ideal called humanities (the idea that all of the capabilities and virtues particular to
human beings should be studied and developed to their greatest extent). This created an enormous optimism about the potential scope of human understanding. When the
Renaissance spread to other countries in the 16
centuries, humanitism was looked at in a different way, stressing the limitations of human understanding. This is the
realm of belief that Shakespeare plays his characters in the tragic story. Hamlet is faced with the task of seeking revenge on a wrong he may never know completely of, which
is not an uncommon story. He points out numerous times questions that cannot be answered due to their concern with supernatural and metaphysical matters as well. The
play demonstrates the difficulty of knowing the truth about other people, whether that be their guilt or innocence, motivations, feelings, sanity or insanity. As 16
French humanist Michel de Montaigne said, the world of experience is a world of appearances, and human beings could never hope to see past those appearances into the
“realities” that lie behind them. Hamlet deals with the difficulty of living in that world.
Many of Shakespeare’s plays concern the transfer of power from one monarch to the next, as in Hamlet. Around this time Queen Elizabeth’s age caused the
prospect of her death and who would inherit her throne. James of Scotland, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, inherited the throne. He was part of a different political faction to
which Queen Elizabeth was opposed. The plays he wrote dealt with betrayals, uncertainty, upheavals, and especially anxiety that often surround these shifts in power. In
Hamlet, the King has died and his brother has inherited the throne, not his son. Nobody knows what to expect from the new king, and many people are fearful and suspicious.
The appearance of the ghost gives physical form to the anxiety that surrounds the upheaval in power, and implies that the future of Denmark has a dark foreshadowing cast
over it. (ACT 1 SCENE 1)
Despite the gloominess of the outside world, the inside of the castle is overwhelmed with a superficial happiness. Claudius pleads to Hamlet to stop grieving for his
dead father and in turn to accept him as a father, surprisingly since it is also his dead brother and he took the throne from Hamlet. The Prince is the only person that is