• Shakespeare and the Landscape of Death: Crossing the Boundaries of Life and the Afterlife

    Sharon Emmerichs (see profile)
    Catholic Church, Death, Landscape architecture, Protestantism, Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
    Item Type:
    ecocriticism, Hamlet, Macbeth, Catholicism, Protestanism, Shakespeare
    Permanent URL:
    This essay explores how denying or ignoring the meanings of the spaces scripted for the dead, or “deathscapes” as anthropologist Lily Kong calls them, can lead Shakespeare’s characters to a spiritual death as well as a bodily one. I examine the cultural meanings of deathscapes in the early modern era--specifically the grave, graveyard and church--through the lens of the schism of Christianity caused by separation of Protestantism and Catholicism. When Hamlet, for example, makes the mistake of treating the spaces of the dead in ways that speak more to how Catholics define and use them, he puts himself in deadly peril. I argue, however, that this in no way makes Hamlet a “Catholic play,” as some critics have in the past claimed. Instead, I show how Shakespeare reinforces the tenets and ideas of Protestantism by punishing Hamlet’s lapses with such a thorough and unavoidable harshness that Hamlet’s anti-Protestant actions and behaviours serve as a warning to audience members. The fact that Hamlet appears to treat the deathscape with more than a nod to the medieval notion of le danse macabre reinforces his weak and unstable nature, and leaves the audience in some doubt as to his chances of meeting with a favourable outcome in the afterlife.
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    7 years ago
    All Rights Reserved
    Share this:


    Item Name: pdf shakespeare-journal-named-post-print-article.pdf
      Download View in browser
    Activity: Downloads: 1116