Decay In Hamlet

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Rotten in the State of Denmark: An analysis of how death and decay imagery is used in Hamlet
There is no doubt that the most prominent theme throughout William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is death. From the traditional signs of death, to the more complicated concepts like thoughts of suicide; death and decay are very prevalent throughout the entire play. All of these symbols cummulate to an overall of mood of darkness and despair. From the opening of the play, to the ending scene, death and murder cover the script and imprint our minds with gore. However, the imagery is not placed there on a whim. It is specifically located throughout to set a dark tone of death and decay. From the Ghost to Hamlet’s dark thinking and revenge plots, death and decay …show more content…

The Ghost, as well as being a focus of the play, kickstarts Hamlet’s revenge plot. Hamlet, as well as struggling with his father’s death and his own dark thoughts, struggles with how to go about his revenge. By killing Claudius, Hamlet will have fulfilled his father’s wishes and maintained his honor. Hamlet thinks that by completing his revenge, his life will have meaning again. However, he becomes more and more discontented with his task as his conscience makes him miserable until he can accomplish what his father wanted him to do. For the majority of the play, Hamlet appears to be unable to act on his wishes. Hamlet’s “obsession with death is a key factor behind his inability to act” (Pesta). He talks about death and decay so much, so that he is unable to think of anything else. This never ending stream of decay distracts Hamlet from his mission for the majority of the play. While Hamlet is dark and moody for the entire play, Claudius begins the play by showing “every sign of being an excellent diplomatist and king” (Knight). He protects Denmark and attempts to do what is best for the state. However, as he becomes more and more obsessed with ridding Denmark of Hamlet, he begins to crumble. Both Claudius and Hamlet become extremely paranoid of each other, while in the midst of their plans. In their exchanges, both men are wary of each other while trading insults that use death and decay imagery. During the search for Polonius’ dead body, Hamlet insults Claudius by saying that if he can’t find Polonius in Heaven, he should “seek him i’ th’ other place yourself” (4.3. 35-36). This is a sly jab by Hamlet in which he states that Claudius should kill himself to go check in Hell, because that is where he will go when he dies. Hamlet particularly enjoys insulting Claudius behind his back, using decaying imagery to compare him to “a mildewed ear” (3.4.66) All of these

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