Christian Morality in Shakespeare

Mikkel Winther

Studenteropgave: Speciale


This project work aims to connect certain elements and characteristics of
Christian morality, as is defined and examined by Friedrich Nietzsche, within
some of the plays written by William Shakespeare. The plays studied in depth
are Hamlet, The Tragedy of Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice. Within
these plays I believe to have found examples of Nietzsche's vision of the
Superman and his dreaded last man. Both of these are examples of the types
of morality that he deals with, which I will show is linked to Christianity.
In his words Christianity is a profoundly nihilistic religion. It says no to
life as is, with all of its, as seen through the eyes of the church, animalistic
tendencies, and wishes for deliberation through death and the subsequently
expected ressurection into heaven. Thus, finding the right name for this
thesis has been a challenge. It could just as well have been titled Christian
nihilism in Shakespeare or perhaps Nietzsche and Shakespeare.
In order to assist my reading of Shakespeare I draw upon the vast com-
mentary as laid out by professor Harold Bloom. With his expertise on Shake-
speare's work as my guide I want to explore just how deep the connection
between Christianity and Shakespeare goes. This is, however, solely focused
on the characters inside of Shakespeare's plays and thus the reader will find no
attempt to identify Shakespeare's personal beliefs when it comes to religion.
The most I hope to show in this regard is that the creator of endlessly deep
characters such as Hamlet at the very least pokes at the inherent structure
of religious spirituality and relates it to that of all human beings.
The conclusion will include my admission that Shakespeare is yet too
clever to allow his characters to be rigidly defined. They escape their own
capturing and instrumentalisation in ways that profoundly remove them from
crudely simple terms. To satisfy my thesis at the level of Shakespeare's char-
acters I have instead tried to open the texts through their famous soliloquys.
In some areas of the play Hamlet engages with his own spiritual struggle and
to some extent loses, but in others he is decisive and seizes control of his -
for a lack of a better word - destiny. Even in the case of Macbeth the tyrant
Shakespeare keeps him elusive. Because even though Macbeth succumbs to
his own blooming nihilism he retains the powerful ambition of the Superman.
Macbeth does not surrender.

UddannelserEngelsk, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato24 jun. 2017
Antal sider65
VejledereUlla Birgit Søs Haugaard