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Fellow Students: Hamlet, Horatio, and the Early Modern University


This essay treats the friendship between Prince Hamlet and the poor scholar Horatio, both students at the University of Wittenberg, as emblematic of the uneasy interpenetration of nobility and the clerical culture of the universities in sixteenth-century England. It explores the transformation which rendered the English Universities socially heterogeneous places where intimate friendship could be forged across status boundaries, despite warnings that such contact could denature nobility. The essay then considers the way in which Hamlet exposes the prince’s investment in university learning as a source of his ontological uncertainty, at the same time that it exploits the association between learning and nobility in order to cultivate an audience that prides itself on intellectual distinction.

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