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Mortal ThoughtsReligion, Secularity, & Identity in Shakespeare and Early Modern Culture$
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Brian Cummings

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199677719

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199677719.001.0001

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Hamlet's Luck

Hamlet's Luck

Shakespeare & the Renaissance Bible

(p.207) 6 Hamlet's Luck
Mortal Thoughts

Brian Cummings

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues in two directions. One, in relation to issues of identity, shows how personhood is conceived to a large degree in Shakespeare's Hamlet by means of ideas of chance and luck. In the contrary direction, it shows how—in contrast to the way that moral philosophers such as Martha Nussbaum and Bernard Williams have written about ‘moral luck’ in ancient philosophy and tragedy—sixteenth-century theology is suffused with ideas of chance, even as it attempts to suppress them. Words such as ‘luck’, ‘fortune’, and ‘chance’ are traced through English biblical translation, and the theology of Luther and Calvin. This chapter argues for a reformulation of the boundaries of philosophy and theology in the early modern period, and how both relate to Hamlet. Hamlet has become the prince of arguments linking modernity, identity, and secularity. The chapter puts this relationship in a new shape.

Keywords:   luck, chance, contingency, Bible, translation, Hamlet, modernity, identity

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