Disease and Death in Hamlet Essay
992 Words4 Pages
Disease and Death in Hamlet
In Shakespeare's time, Denmark was a horrible, rotting, poisoned land due to its hidden deceit. In "Hamlet," Shakespeare makes many references to this as a means of clarifying relationships in the story. Writers often use imagery to provide detail and development, which help us understand ideas within and the atmosphere of the play. Hamlet, Horatio, and the ghost are the characters who allude to Denmark's state of decay. Shakespeare's frequent references to death and disease are not only evidence of the harsh and dirty living conditions of the time; they are a recurrent theme in all of his works.
Hamlet himself constantly references disease. After the death of his father and marriage of his…show more content…
Hamlet is so depressed that he feels life isn't worth living and Shakespeare's death imagery helps us to feel what Hamlet is experiencing because we can actually picture flesh turning to dew. A reader could argue that all this death and gore could be in Hamlet's mind alone until Horatio says, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark (I, IV, 90)." Now we know not only does Hamlet think this, but Horatio does as well. Picture festering carrion as a metaphor for King Hamlet's death and we realize that Horatio's words couldn't be truer. The ghost also makes a horrible reference. He says at the moment of his death, his skin became "Most lazar-like with vile and loathsome crust all my smooth body (I, V, 72)." This passage is exceptionally powerful and you can almost "feel" what death is like, with skin crusting over and open sores flowing with puss, you become like a leper before death takes its toll.
Decay also becomes a strong item on Hamlet's mind. While talking to Polonius he says, "For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion (II, II, 182)." Although this goes over Polonius' head, we can see that this imagery really helps to get Hamlets point as well as Shakespeare's across. Imagery like this also helps out a lot with description because rather than just saying "When the dog dies," we can
Disease, Sickness, Death, and Decay in Hamlet Essay
1535 Words7 Pages
Death, Sickness, and Decay in Hamlet
Decay is defined as "a gradual decline; deterioration," disease as "any departure from health." Both have many forms: physical, psychological, social, etc. Multiple examples of illness and deterioration can be found in the tragedy Hamlet. In this drama, Shakespeare uses imagery of decay and disease and the emotional and moral decay of his characters to enhance the atmosphere of the play.
The drama Hamlet abounds with images of decay and disease. Celestial bodies are described in this manner; in Act I Horatio says that the moon "Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse," and in Act III, Hamlet says that the moon is "thoughtsick" at his mother's sin. Abstract ideas such as wealth…show more content…
Most of all, Hamlet's description in Act IV of Polonius' corpse eaten by worms is a disgusting passage:
Not where he eats, but where 'a is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are e'en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar are but variable service -- two dishes, but one
table. That's the end.
References to sickness and rottenness are made throughout the play, but decay is perceivable in other ways as well.
The characters in Hamlet decay emotionally throughout the play. For example, at the beginning of the drama Queen Gertrude is happy, but her conversation with Hamlet in Act III, his apparent insanity, and his vague hints about her sin torment her until in Act IV she moans miserably,
To my sick soul (as sin's true nature is)
Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss;
So full of artless jealousy is guilt
It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.
Poor Gertrude has made the pathetic journey from blissful ignorance to wretched half-enlightenment, and her peace of mind is totally destroyed. Likewise, Ophelia is totally changed within the course of the play.