What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how ex¬press and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Hamlet’s famous speech illustrates very well the double movement which Professor Chaudhuri considers to be characteristic of Renais¬sance thought, namely, a deep¬-rooted scepticism concerning man’s intellectual and moral nature, opposed by a sense of his power and dignity. How¬ever, according to the author, there is a progression in this movement, though it is the reverse of that in Hamlet’s speech. Whereas Hamlet moves from affirmation to dis¬illusion, many Renaissance writers and thinkers arrive at an affirmation of man’s powers through their awareness of his physical, intellectual, and moral weaknesses.
Nov-Dec 1982, volume 7, No 3