Shakespeare Themes - Afterlife

Most visions of the afterlife in the plays under consideration are consistent with the Christian worldview, and some references are distinctly Catholic. For example there is a rather graphic and scary vision of Purgatory along traditional lines in Hamlet when the ghost of Hamlet Senior comes calling:
"I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end".

In Macbeth, the man himself is vaguely conscious of an afterlife but is willing to commit murder and take his chances:
"We'ld jump the life to come".
Also in Macbeth, hell is a prominent presence - the evil that happens comes from there, Macbeth is seen as a devil:
" .................. Not in the legions
of horrid hell can come a devil more damn'd
In evils to top Macbeth"

Close this window to return to the Themes page.