Hamlet;Montaigne Essay

Hamlet;Montaigne Essay - Sunpreet Singh Cultural...

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Sunpreet Singh Cultural Foundations II-8:00-9:15pm Instructor: Pamela Brown Date: May, 07, 2010 Does Man Know Anything? Hamlet , by William Shakespeare, is one of the most profound and radical plays of its time and shares many similar radical philosophies of Michel de Montaigne, author of Apology for Raymond Sebond . Through the characters, Shakespeare endows his pessimism for the faulty of reason in man and their attempts of finding any certainty. Many of these skeptical ideas are presented in young Hamlet himself, who is highly questioning and even considered “mad” at times in the play. Interestingly, many of Montaigne’s arguments about the boastful nature of man, his assumptions of reality, his false wisdom, and his lack of objective knowledge are displayed by Shakespeare in Hamlet . Furthermore, Shakespeare cataclysmic ending, in itself, suggests the true failure of man to take actions of divine matter into his own hand. Ultimately, it appears both Shakespeare and Montaigne agree that objective knowledge is inaccessible to man and maintaining a skeptical attitude befits man. The inability of man to distinguish between reality and fantasy is a key disadvantage, as suggested by Montaigne. “Certainly, we have strangely overpaid for this fine rationality we boast of and this capacity to judge and to know, if we have bought it at the price of that infinite number of passions in which we are constantly entangled” (48) That although we have knowledge, it is only conceivable through the senses, which are distorted by the many passions. Correspondingly, Barnardo explains that “Horatio says 'tis [it is] but our fantasy, [imagination]" (Act I Scene I: Lines 23-29) and he also agreed to sit with the men in case it appears again, so Marcellus can prove the apparition is real and not simply fantasy. Ironically, 1
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Horatio claims that they are delusional of the ghost but he still wants to check. Later when the ghost reappears, Marcellus tells Horatio to question the Ghost, after all “Thou [you-Horatio] art [are] a scholar;" he says (Act I Scene I: Line 42). Shakespeare seems to mock the “proclaimed” intellectuals in their claims of finding certain knowledge, while they still doubt that certainty themselves. This idea is synonymous to Montaigne’s idea of purchasing our reason with the dilemma of our passions entangled in it because Horatio epitomizes man and his inability to discern reality from fantasy! “The ignorance that knows itself, that judges itself and condemns itself, is not complete ignorance:” (64). That the wise understand their ignorance of true knowledge and that education instills in man his lack of knowledge. This idea of the boastful as
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This note was uploaded on 09/13/2010 for the course BIOLOGY BIO-1B taught by Professor Dehaan during the Spring '10 term at Berkeley College.

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Hamlet;Montaigne Essay - Sunpreet Singh Cultural...

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