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    Understanding death in Hamlet.

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    What is the relationship between "a man's life" (V.ii.74) and "undiscovered country" (III.ii.78).

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    Traditional beliefs often held that untimely death was a punishment for sin and therefore was a thing to be feared. Since the medical knowledge at the time could not explain the plagues which could wipe out whole villages, it was assumed that these mass fatalities were signs of God's displeasure. By Shakespeare's time, humanism and the revival of classical philosophy resulted in the growing influence of alternative ways of thinking about death. As a subject for dramatists, death became a more complicated issue than it had been in the earlier morality plays. Instead of representing death simply as a hooded figure who would call upon an Everyman or Mankind to account for his life, Shakespeare and other writers explored the many intellectual possibilities (and controversies) raised by new ways of thinking about mortality. Hamlet* in particular explores the idea of death as an "undiscovered country*," as opposed to the clearly defined territory of medieval Christian doctrine. The dramatists drew on currents of thought which were being worked out by Renaissance intellectuals, as humanist and classical thought converged with traditional Christian beliefs.
    <br><br><br>Hamlet is explaining to Horatio about how he substituted his own letter to the King of England, ordering the ...