- World of the Story
- Shakespeare & Martin Luther
- Complete Outline
- Characters list & Quotes
- Contact Bren
All Saint's Church.
HAMLET: "I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw."
World of the Story
Our story unfolds on February 16-18, 1517, in the quiet college town of Wittenberg, Germany. The conflict of the story, however, sits at the intersection of three great stories: the conflict between Denmark and Sweden, Martin Luther and Rome, and of course, Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Denmark and Sweden
The Union of Kalmar in 1387 conjoined Denmark, Sweden and Norway into one state, with Denmark at the head. Sweden waged 11 wars with Denmark before its independence in the early 1600's, around the time Shakespeare's Hamlet was first performed. Intermittent seizure of princes for ransom were common, most notably those during King Christian's time (who was the model for King Hamlet).
My supposition is Shakespeare used Norway instead of Sweden for his non-political play because Sweden's liberty was still in question at the time.
Martin Luther and Rome
When the Pope desired to raise funds to build St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, he sent out Friar Tetzel to sell papal indulgences, promising that "when the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs!" One could buy relatives out of hell, and themselves from sin guilt.
However, this business conflicted with Duke Frederick of Saxony. He had spent years building up his religious university in Wittenberg, along with a collection of relics in All Soul's Church, where people would also gain absolution for a price.
So Frederick barred Tetzel from Saxony.
Therefore, Tetzel set up shop on the border of the Elbe River, outside the province, luring the university's students. This would put the students in peril since highwaymen knew the pilgrims to Friar Tetzel were carrying gold. Those who weren't robbed would return to school, as Martin Luther described, "Full of indulgence. Full of wine and other moral horrors."
Martin Luther first spoke about the corrupting influence of indulgences during Lent, 1517, culminating in a list of 95 Theses (religious assertions) that he nailed to the door of All Soul's Church, October 31, 1517.
©2007 Bren.us. All rights reserved