Fear of the Afterlife in Hamlet

Throughout Hamlet, Hamlet has an array of moments in which to kill Claudius, such as right after the ghost tells him of Claudius’s crime, or when Claudius is praying. But Hamlet is never able to follow through on his plan for revenge. This is because Christianity influences his thoughts of death and the afterlife. Like Hamlet, many of the characters behave the way they do in part because of their religious beliefs. In “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” Louis Althusser argues that ideological state apparatuses like religion influence people’s behaviors, and these behaviors uphold the disparate social order. Using Althusser’s theories, we gain further insight as to why characters are governed by their own beliefs. Their faith in Christianity causes them to behave obediently and devotedly so that after death, they go to heaven. Thus, the rulers benefit because their subjects will not revolt or cause trouble, due to the subjects’ fear of the afterlife.

Fear of the Afterlife in Hamlet