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Passion's Triumph over ReasonA History of the Moral Imagination from Spenser to Rochester$
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Christopher Tilmouth

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199212378

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212378.001.0001

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Hamlet ‘Lapsed in Passion’

Hamlet ‘Lapsed in Passion’

Chapter:
(p.75) 3 Hamlet ‘Lapsed in Passion’
Source:
Passion's Triumph over Reason
Author(s):

Christopher Tilmouth (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212378.003.0004

This chapter discusses two aspects of Hamlet damaging to Elizabethan moral assumptions. First, Hamlet strives to imitate the fury of Senecan heroes, i.e., to invoke an overwhelming passion in himself, because without that impulse he is incapable of acting. (The Elizabethan rationalist's passionless state has this drawback, that it deprives man of the inward force needed to motivate actions.) In practice, though, Hamlet can only imitate such passion, not feel the real thing. Lacking genuine outrage, he embraces self-delusions instead, pretending that he is working purposefully towards vengeance or is furious when actually he is not. Second, this same Hamlet is passionate in his revulsion against the flesh. His obsession with bringing moral reformation to Denmark, a quality which makes him reminiscent of earlier moralists, is heartfelt, but drives him into such frenzied conduct towards Gertrude that Hamlet thereby brings the probity of all such moral asceticism into question.

Keywords:   fury, Senecan hero, self-delusion, the flesh, asceticism, moral reformation

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