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"Vows to the Blackest Devil": Hamlet and the Evolving Code of Honor in Early Modern England

Reta A. Terry
Renaissance Quarterly
Vol. 52, No. 4 (Winter, 1999), pp. 1070-1086
DOI: 10.2307/2901836
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2901836
Page Count: 17
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
"Vows to the Blackest Devil": Hamlet and the Evolving Code of Honor in Early Modern England
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Abstract

The Renaissance was a period in which the honor code underwent a significant metamorphosis. The medieval, chivalric code of honor, with its emphasis on lineage, allegiance to one's lord and violence, evolved into an honor code that was both more moral and political in that it began to emphasize the individual conscience and allegience to the state. Analysis of Shakespeare's Hamlet, and in particular its characters' use of promise, provides new and revealing insights into the evolving Renaissance codes of honor, for Shakespeare creates characters in Hamlet that represent various stages in the evolution of a changing honor system.

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