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Hamlet’s Religions

Jepson School, University of Richmond, Room 245, Jepson Hall, 28 Westhampton Way, Richmond, VA 23173, USA
Religions 2011, 2(3), 427-448;
Received: 6 June 2011 / Revised: 8 August 2011 / Accepted: 16 August 2011 / Published: 6 September 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Special Editors Issue)
PDF [342 KB, uploaded 6 September 2011]


Pastoral challenges prompted pietists among Elizabethan Catholics and Calvinists to commend what historians now call an inward turn whereby the faithful, in a sense, become their own confessors. This article suggests that spiritual exercises or soliloquies Shakespeare scripted for his Hamlet (and, less so, for Angelo in Measure for Measure) compare favorably with the devotional literature that underscored the importance of self-analysis, intra-psychic conflict, and contrition. The argument here is not that the playwright’s piety resembled his Hamlet’s but that the latter reflected efforts to structure desire in the religions of the time struggling for survival and recognition. References to passages in Shakespeare plays (act, scene) appear parenthetically in the text. Unless otherwise indicated in the bibliography appended to this article, all early printed material is accessible at the Early English Books database,, verified June 1, 2011. View Full-Text
Keywords: Shakespeare; Calvinism; Catholicism; contrition Shakespeare; Calvinism; Catholicism; contrition
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Kaufman, P.I. Hamlet’s Religions. Religions 2011, 2, 427-448.

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