Seminar paper from the year 2010 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0, University of Cologne, course: Hauptseminar: Gothic Renaissance, language: English, abstract: Nor dread nor hope attend A dying animal; A man awaits his end Dreading and hoping all ... He knows death to the bone - Man has created death. (W. B. Yeats, "Death") If Yeats is right by saying that man has created death, or rather the idea of death, then it is not surprising that what people thought about death in the past differs from the attitudes we have today and even across different cultures, the feelings concerning death and its representation vary. As Neill states in his study, Renaissance tragic drama is about "the discovery of death and the mapping of its meanings" and he mentions that Hamlet is a play "whose action is obsessively concerned with the exploration of mortality" (1997: 1). According to Zimmerman the play creates an "unsettling atmosphere of existence on the margins, of half-states in which neither life nor death holds sway" (2005: 172). This in-betweenness is also something that Julia Kristeva investigates in her influential study The powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1980). She develops the theory of the abject, which is primarily concerned with the state of something that is between subject and object and therefore, arouses a feeling of uncanniness. This paper is concerned with the exploration of these margins and half-states concerning death in Hamlet. The investigation has two main aims. First, it wants to identify occurrences of death in Hamlet, which are marked by ambiguity and uncertainty, i.e. with an abject death according to Julia Kristeva's theory. Second, it tries to answer the questions why a particular appearance of death in the play is abject and whether cultural conventions and the religious development of the Reformation in England at that time influenced the effects and affects evoked with the Elizabethan audience. "Shakespeare's plays are works that live as much in their written/printed as in their performative re-productions and that [...] are therefore most fruitfully examined in both forms side by side" (Aebischer 2004: 13). Taking this assumption as a preliminary, the analysis in this paper focuses on the text of the play, as well as on practical questions concerning performance and stage conventions in the Elizabethan time.
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