The Importance Of Disease In Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Many literary scholars argue that Hamlet’s inability to avenge his father 's death is the central issue of the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet. His indecision is often cited as a tragic flaw which ultimately causes his death, but the characters in Hamlet resemble the decaying of Denmark throughout the play. Many authors use disease, physical weakness, or deformity, to symbolize mental, spiritual, emotional illness and corruption in someone or something. Shakespeare uses imagery of disease, illness, and weakness to suggest physical, spiritual, and emotional decay and corruption in Hamlet. Beneath the surface action of Hamlet runs an undercurrent of imagery of disease as opposed to healthfulness.When the play begins, Francisco communicates, “ I am sick at heart. ” (1.1.6) Immediately, Shakespeare shows the image of sickness in this line. When Hamlet…show more content…
However, since Claudius is himself the disease from which the country is suffering from, he sees Hamlet as an illness with which he should have dealt with, “But like the owner of a foul disease, To keep it from divulging, let it feed Even on the pith of life” (4.1.22-24) When speaking to Guildenstern in Act 3, Hamlet expresses, “Make you a wholesome answer; my wit 's diseased: but, sir, such answer as I can make, you shall command.” (2.3.314-315) Shakespeare uses the imagery of disease to show how ill and confused Hamlet’s mind is getting which also leads to the decaying of Hamlet. Consequently, towards the end of the play, Hamlet softly speaks , “ Tis’ now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes contagion to the world. Now I could drink hot blood, and do such bitter business as the day would quake to look on.” (3.1.350-355) Therefore, “blood” and “contagion” are images of diseases that Shakespeare uses to convey the idea of decaying Hamlet, which reinforces the political and moral corruption of Denmark.
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