When the Advanced English syllabus says that you need to consider the "text's reception in a range of contexts"; it means that you will need to know how it has been performed and interpreted since Shakespeare wrote the play. Hopefully, in doing that, it will develop your understanding of the texts "textual integrity" or what makes it stand throughout time and above criticism.
Writers of the Renaissance period expressed their opinions about human nature and humanities role in the universe through their writings. In essence, this "humanist" thought sought to displace obedience to God and the Church as the central focus of human thought and endeavour to replace it with a new focus on the individual and a person's ability to reason, discover and create.
Botticello's artistic genius, "The Birth of Venus"(1482), is a celebration of Renaissance humanism. Prior to the renaissance movement, artists didn't see the beauty in the human form. Humanists in the renaissance period began to argue that the human body was a beautiful creation of God. In the painting, Venus emerges wholly formed from the sea and we can see that the human form is the pinnacle of creation. Renaissance humanism exploited the belief in man as the image of God himself. Human virtues and especially reason were promoted as the central to the world of the Renaissance. Shakespeare blends in his works the contending forces of medieval philosophy and Renaissance humanism.
The anxieties that emerge from the corruption of the Danish Court are reflective of the Renaissance debates on humanists philosophies. Thematically, the play centres on the inability to discern truth in a politically corrupt world. The Danish court becomes an "ulcerous place" and the complex layering of images of decay serves to further destabilise Hamlet's search for the truth. Hamlet becomes very mistrustful and cautious of his world and the people in it and his musings reflect that of a man trying to get his bearings in a false world. In Act two, Hamlet muses to Rozencrantz and Guildentstern, contemplating the notion, "what piece of work is a man ... how like a God." Like his artistic counterpart, Botticello, Hamlet sees Man as the pinnacle of creation, and in true humanist thought, Shakespeare celebrates man's ability to control our own destiny.