Humanism in the Works of Shakespeare

Noticeable in Goneril and Regan’s deceitful remarks about their love for their father is the fact they reflect profound levels of wit (Shakespeare, King Lear 8). The nature of flattery is that it requires high levels of intellectualism, particularly when it is targeted to an intelligent audience. King Lear has his spirits uplifted by listening to his daughters. On the outside, Shakespeare presents the two daughters in the proper dimension of humanism. Although their intentions are negative, how the two daughters portray themselves is consistent with the nature of humanism. Vast material possessions endowed King Lear. The King lived without experiencing the love he sought to improve the quality of his life. Having lived in abundance and enjoyed the privilege associated with power, King Lear now sought to gain love, which he could not buy with money. He needed the assurance of love to find the justification of passing on the reigns to his daughters.

Scholars of Shakespeare also point out that the character of Edmund captures the Renaissance humanist ideal of critical thinking. A typical humanist is highly reflective and tends to pay attention to the revolutionary aspects of society. Edmund is keen on usurping power to uplift his profile in society (Shakespeare, The Tempest 83). He understands the importance of building individual pedigree and relying on his wit to improve his fortunes. Barring other characteristics, the capacity to engage in reflective thought stands out as Edmund’s defining quality. Humanists cherish the celebration of knowledge. Some of them explore ways of improving their chances in life. Some questions have often been asked regarding the real intentions of a humanist approach to society. Connected to this is the confusion resulting in the portrayal of characters with humanist characteristics but evil schemes.

Some commentaries have argued that the element of virtue could be misleading because certain actions that take place within the humanist scheme of things tend to lead to undesirable outcomes. In short, some characters who convey the impression of humanism have a villainous aspect. Edmund and the two older sisters portray outstanding qualities of humanism, but their values are questionable. Shakespeare succeeds in constructing them in profoundly realistic dimensions to show the practical or pragmatic side of humanism. In one respect, Shakespeare portrays society as one with a diverse assembly of people whose approaches to life are largely conditioned by their subjective views. Individualism stands out as one of the various defining aspects of humanism. A close analysis of the characters in The Tempest and King Lear shows that they are comparable. The comparison manifests in terms of their pursuit of goodness and individual prosperity.

Humanists share the view that the practice of reason and virtue could promote empowerment. This observation reflects in the plot of The Tempest, particularly in the manner in which Prospero. Apart from his scheming nature, Prospero reveals himself as a man with remarkable endowments of wisdom and patience. Moreover, Prospero stands out as a loving father who always focuses on enhancing the welfare of his daughter, Miranda. Humanism cherishes family values. For example, Prospero arranges the marriage for Miranda to Ferdinand because the later has sufficient resources and pedigree (Shakespeare, The Tempest 92). Despite his other flaws, Prospero is portrayed as a character who takes a keen interest in the positive side of life. He believes in the ultimate goodness of the people around him. He is also principled and understands that the success of life shall be established on his capacity for virtue.

The special care that Prospero devotes towards Miranda shows that he is a father with growth who cares and cherishes the welfare of those who depend on him. At certain points, Prospero portrays the impression of a conscientious individual whose interest in the welfare of others enhances his overall significance to the play. For example, when Prospero realizes that Ferdinand is gloomy, he says, “You look like something’s bothering you. Cheer up. Our music-and -dance spectacle is over” (Shakespeare, The Tempest 83). Prospero’s insight into life enables him to relate well with other people and make a meaningful contribution to social progress. Critics have often studied a selection of Shakespeare’s plays to identify certain common patterns, which are useful in establishing the overall meaning of the play.

Inferences from various critical analyses have shown that Shakespeare had an expanded worldview about life. He was not limited to the number of possibilities he could explore with the view of enhancing the quality of his life. According to other critics, Shakespeare has often endeavored to develop characters in some of the plays. Weaker characters are also constructed in ways that make the resemble certain notorious villains. Humanism reflects in the manner in which the playwright focuses on universal themes that concern the human race. Shakespeare has an expanded scope of coverage, as manifested in the multiple settings of the plays. For example, The Tempest shifts its settings from North Africa. The changes in the settings foster the impression that Shakespeare considered the people from different nationalities and backgrounds as essentially connected in terms of their experiences. His vast understanding of the different racial experiences reveals in the manner in which he treats Prospero and Caliban on the island.

In a practical sense, Shakespeare plays to reveal strong humanist aspects in terms of character development and the development of themes. The dominant characters in the plays have remarkable virtues that promote the ideas of goodness and a general belief in human brotherhood. Shakespeare builds the fictional society of his character in ways that promote the virtues of love and companionship, which are fundamental to humanism. Moreover, the playwright covers the theme of love in ways that reveal his commitment to demonstrating the capacity for humans to overcome hate and divisions. The value of love in the plays surpasses the basic objective of marriage to the more important goal of bonding families and reconciling long-standing differences between families or communities. It might be concluded that Shakespeare was decidedly positive in the treatment of his plays.

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Humanism in the works of shakespeare. (2021, May 31). Retrieved August 9, 2022 , from

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