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Full Access “Shortly They Will Play Me in What Forms They List upon the Stage”: Hamlet, Conscience, and the Earl of Essex

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“Shortly They Will Play Me in What Forms They List upon the Stage”: Hamlet, Conscience, and the Earl of Essex

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Abstract This essay explores the theme of conscience in Hamlet as it relates to Elizabethan Catholics and their hopes for Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex. Hamlet may represent Essex, the second half of the play being either a study of why Essex, put under house arrest in 1599, might delay taking bold action, or perhaps a negative example of how Essex ought not to proceed. Hamlet exhibits two traits that lead to delay, both applicable to Essex: rashness, and an overweening trust in Providence. These traits lead to tragedy in the play, as they would for Essex.

Affiliations: 1: Mesa Community College Arizona

10.1163/156852912X635197
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Abstract This essay explores the theme of conscience in Hamlet as it relates to Elizabethan Catholics and their hopes for Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex. Hamlet may represent Essex, the second half of the play being either a study of why Essex, put under house arrest in 1599, might delay taking bold action, or perhaps a negative example of how Essex ought not to proceed. Hamlet exhibits two traits that lead to delay, both applicable to Essex: rashness, and an overweening trust in Providence. These traits lead to tragedy in the play, as they would for Essex.

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2012-01-01
2017-06-26

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