Hamlet and His High Concept of Honor
Shakespeare did not accidentally choose the Prince’s heroes. Rejecting the obscurantism of the Middle Ages, humanists have by no means neglected the precious thing they saw in the legacy of this era. Already in the Middle Ages, the ideal of chivalry was the embodiment of high moral qualities.
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Real knighthood was far from perfect, but people appeared in its midst and had their own singers who demanded a combination of military prowess with the protection of the weak and the offended. The ideal of a courageous, just, kind knight, in many respects, predisposed humanistic notions of what a true man should be. Not only in literature but also in the Renaissance, this tendency has taken place.
Among the English humanists, Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) was considered to be such an ideal knight a warrior, scholar, poet, novelist, author of The Defense of Poetry. He fell in battle for thirty-two years.
There is no contradiction between Hamlet’s knighthood and his humanism. They combine organically. Among the most important ideals of knighthood was loyalty in general, and in love in particular.
It is not by chance that in knightly times wonderful tales of faithful love emerged, such as the story of Tristan and Isolde. In this tradition, love was celebrated not only to death, but also for the coffin. Hamlet experiences betrayal of his mother both as a personal grief and as a betrayal of the ideal of loyalty.
Any betrayal – love, friendship, duty – is regarded by Hamlet as a violation of the moral rules of chivalry.
In this connection, Hamlet’s attitude to Fortinbras is quite indicative. He is a knight of honor for him. Fortinbras’s wife admires Hamlet:
Here is this army, a heavy crowd, Knowing a graceful, gentle prince, Whose spirit is enveloped in a strange ambition, Laughing at an invisible outcome, Doom what is deadly and wrong, All that happiness and danger can do, Yes, for a shell…
Fortinbras is portrayed as a knight, adventurer, boldly seeking an occasion to show his valor. They are driven by ambition that is not considered a vice by the knights. On the contrary, he saw a high virtue, and this is how the Norwegian prince’s aspiration for the deeds and glory of his Danish colleague appreciates. According to Hamlet, Fortinbras is driven by “divine ambition.”
Knightly honor did not suffer any, even the slightest damage. This is precisely what Hamlet proceeds from, saying:
Truly great, Who is not alarmed by a small cause, But will enter into a dispute because of the epicenter, When the honor is hurt.
Hamlet does not condemn Fortinbras in these words, he merely emphasizes how much more his cause for action is greater than that of the Norwegian prince. As we know, then, seeing the passage of the Norwegian warriors, Hamlet finally matures for revenge:
“My thought, from now on you must. Bloody be it, or your dust is the price! ” .
However, there is a clear contradiction here. One of the rules of knightly honor is truthfulness. Meanwhile, in order to carry out the first part of his plan and to prove himself in Claudia’s fault, Hamlet pretends not to be what he really is.
Paradoxically, Hamlet decides to pretend to be crazy, and this is exactly what honors him the least. Here again we turn to the words that Hamlet utters before the fight with Laert:
Having touched our honor, nature, feeling, I declare – was insane. By and ”offended Laertes? Hamlet?
No; After all, if Hamlet is divorced with himself II offends a friend, not himself, then Hamlet does not act; Hamlet clean. On yoke same acts? His madness.
The Hamlet reflects not only Shakespeare’s view but also most of the Renaissance humanists in the place of the masses in political life. Shakespeare repeatedly portrayed the people in his plays: in the second part of Henry VI, in Richard III, in Julius Caesar, and after the creation of Hamlet in Coriolanus. And everywhere his people are depicted politically immature. In the second part of Henry VI, the peasants’ displeasure is used by Jack Cad to raise a rebellion against the feudal lords.
But then the rebels then betray their leader. In Richard III, the townspeople find themselves obedient to the will of the sinister hunchback who rushes to power. In Julius Caesar, the people easily defy Mark Antony’s demagoguery and turn against those who fought for his freedom, Brutus and Cassius.
The humanistic political thought of the Renaissance as a whole has not yet grown up to the ideas of democracy and democracy. Most humanists from the experience of feudal strife have concluded that there is a need for a united and powerful state, led by a wise and just monarch. This view also predetermined the solution to the political problem in Hamlet. The prince does not seek help from the people because he rejects the very idea of rebellion against power.
Laertes, raising the rebellion, rejects the basics of order, submission, legitimacy, acting as a rebellious feudal lord. Hamlet’s ethics prevents him from resorting to insurrection, for his purpose is not the destruction of the state, but the restoration of his rightful rights. Claudius is not only a murderer from a moral point of view, but also a criminal against the state, for he killed the rightful king.
Hamlet cannot accomplish his goal of “fixing the dislocated joint of Time” by breaking the law himself, raising the lower class against the higher.
Therefore, Hamlet solves the political problem within the ruling upper echelon of society. His personal grievance and honored honor give him moral justification, and a political principle that recognizes tyranny as a legitimate form of restoration of state order gives him the right to kill Claudius. These two sanctions are enough for Hamlet to retaliate.