July 19, 2015
Worldview in Literature
William Shakespeare was an actor, a poet and a playwright who lived in England during the time of the Renaissance. The renaissance was a time of transition from the Middle Ages to modern time. Scholars, artists and inventors were able to expand their knowledge without fear of retribution. Humanism was beginning to gain in popularity, and as such so did the literature of the time. The era was thoroughly a Christian time period. The Bard’s social, cultural and historical world around him led to the creation of literature with undertones that resonate with today’s society. Shakespeare’s worldview was transferred from his thoughts to the words of his characters. Most of his plays contained madness and political turmoil, which helped increase the popularity of the works. These themes still resonate with people today as political unrest will always exist in society. While most scholars, this author included, felt that Shakespeare’s writing was secular in nature it was not true. His writing allowed the characters to use their abilities to solve their own problems or make their voices heard. Plays during the renaissance allowed writers the creativity to voice their concerns through their characters about social, religious or political views. Madness, a major theme in Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear, adds to the atmosphere of self-destruction. Insanity was prevalent during Elizabethan times (Bali, S., 2014). Characters that were crazy, were easy for people to relate to. Shakespeare used insanity and political turmoil to “recreate and underscore the political and social ramifications of the irregularities and abnormalities of the human mind” (Bali, S., 2014). This reflects the insanity in the real world that is filled with deception, distrust, and a society full of liars.
The actors in these plays were white men for all roles including characters that were written as woman. The culture of the time did not allow women or black men participation on stage. This did not stop Shakespeare from allowing his view about class conflict to be heard from the character Othello (Callaghan, 1999). Shakespeare was a genius at observing human nature and then writing it into his plays. Example? The plays show daily struggles of life in Renaissance England and characters became self-reflecting (Kramm, 1996). The Bard gave a voice to women of his time. Women of the renaissance were largely excluded from public life and within the church. By creating powerful strong feminine characters like Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra, he was able to show the misogynist men of the era that women are a force to be reckoned with and can also led to your destruction. Shakespeare followed his Christian belief of love thy neighbor, and made sure that all were represented in his works.
Shakespeare was born during a Christian era so naturally his worldview would be Christian. This can be determined by his writing. Tragedies deal with pain and evil, and fate was something that no man could escape. His plays contained ethical and religious references which were different from the works of Aristotle and Plato (Schwartz, J., 2001). The characters within the works have the ability to question, reason and act with free will. There is also evil in the plot. When it seems that evil may win, Shakespeare always gives the audience a reason to hope. That is a corner stone of a Christian worldview. Christian plays, tragedies included, contain many life like and round characters even if the characters themselves are not Christians. This allows the audience to identify with the characters and get lost within the story. The main characters make decisions that can led to their destruction. This is free will that God has allowed humans to have. Free will is what makes the characters so life like. Love is also a recurrent theme that appears in literary works by