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Hamlet’s MomentDrama and Political Knowledge in Early Modern England$
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András Kiséry

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198746201

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198746201.001.0001

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‘The Wiser Sort’

‘The Wiser Sort’

The Distinction of Politics and Gabriel Harvey’s Machiavellian Hamlet

(p.37) 1 ‘The Wiser Sort’
Hamlet’s Moment

András Kiséry

Oxford University Press

The marginalia of Gabriel Harvey, a humanist famously eager for a political career, allow us to insert Hamlet in the contexts of late sixteenth-century political education, the discussion about the reason of state, and the culture of extracting sententiae from literary texts. This culture provides a formal link between tragedies and the focus on aphoristic formulations in Machiavelli’s sixteenth-century reception. To Harvey, reading tragedies meant making distinctions between moral or philosophical considerations and the principles of political action. A note in Harvey’s Chaucer implies a similarity between the utility of Shakespeare’s Lucrece and Hamlet, but it is in tragic drama that the tensions between religious–ethical and political norms and arguments become visible in the conflicting claims they make on dramatic characters and on readers.

Keywords:   Machiavelli, Hamlet, The Rape of Lucrece, sententiae, education, Gabriel Harvey, marginalia, history of reading, reason of state

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