Hamlet is a play by William Shakespeare. The play is about Hamlet, a young prince who is grieving the death of his father. Hamlet’s father was killed by Hamlet’s uncle, who then married Hamlet’s mother and became the new king. Hamlet is enraged by this turn of events and plots to take revenge on his uncle.
In the process, Hamlet kills several people, including his own girlfriend. Ultimately, Hamlet himself is killed. The play contains many references to death, both direct and indirect. This paper will explore the death theme in Hamlet and how it affects the characters in the play.
“To be or not to be, that is the question,” a famous Shakespearean quotation from his revenge play Hamlet. This production follows Hamlets return home and disappointment with his mother for having married his uncle Claudius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The essence of portion ii scene ii lines 352-580 should be evaluated in terms of the thematic, narrative, character, and overall Hamlet concept’s development.
When Hamlet learns of his father’s death, he is shocked and saddened. However, he quickly realizes that Claudius, his mother’s new husband and his uncle, is the murderer. Hamlet is consumed with thoughts of revenge and spends the rest of the play trying to figure out how to kill Claudius. Along the way, Hamlet struggles with whether or not to take his own life. This internal conflict is presented in act ii scene ii lines 352-580 when Hamlet contemplates suicide.
In these lines, Hamlet is debating whether life is worth living or if death would be a better option. He compares death to sleep and argues that death is “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”
Many deeper themes run through Hamlet, summarizing the story in a nutshell. The most evident theme in Hamlet is death’s perplexity. Because his father’s death, Prince Hamlet becomes preoccupied with death and the spiritual aftermath surrounding it, which is a thematic aspect of Hamlet.
The whole play is a contemplation of death and its ramifications. Hamlet’s Hamartia is his delay in killing Claudius which leads to the tragic ending of the play.
Death is a powerful force in Hamlet. It shapes the events of the play and drives Hamlet’s actions and thoughts. The Ghost of Hamlet’s father tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius and asks Hamlet to take vengeance. This revelation starts Hamlet on his quest for revenge which dominates the rest of the play. Even though Hamlet knows that death is inevitable, he still fears it and is reluctant to die himself. He procrastinates in taking action against Claudius and even contemplates suicide at times.
Hamlet is visited by his father’s ghost, who mysteriously provides him with vital information about his death. “…and the devil has power to assume a beautiful form” (2.2.561-562). The figure of King Hamlet’s father appears and it is mysterious yet pleasant that the devil himself should take this shape. The people of the kingdom were perplexed by King Hamlet’s death.
It seemed that Hamlet’s father, the king, had been poisoned. Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, had taken the throne and married Hamlet’s mother. The ghost of Hamlet’s father tells Hamlet that it was Claudius who killed him. Hamlet is then tasked with revenge. “The time is out of joint: O cursed spite / That ever I was born to set it right!” (1.5.188-189). From this point on, the play is focused on Hamlet taking his revenge on Claudius for killing his father and taking his rightful place as King.
In the process of seeking revenge, Hamlet kills Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and Laertes. Hamlet also dies in the end, as does Gertrude, Claudius, and Ophelia. Death is a significant theme in Hamlet and it is portrayed through the death of Hamlet’s father, Hamlet’s revenge killings, and the final deaths at the end of the play.
Death is first introduced as a theme when Hamlet’s father’s ghost visits him. The ghost tells Hamlet how he was murdered by Claudius and charges Hamlet with taking revenge. “If thou didst ever thy dear father love— / Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (1.5.23-24). Hamlet is hesitant at first, but he eventually agrees to take revenge. Hamlet’s revenge killings are motivated by his desire to avenge his father’s death.
Hamlet kills Polonius because he believes that Polonius is working for Claudius and is spying on him. Hamlet also kills Rosencrantz and Guildenstern because they are working for Claudius and are trying to find out Hamlet’s plans. Hamlet finally kills Claudius in a duel with Laertes. Hamlet dies as well, but not before killing Gertrude, Claudius’s wife and Hamlet’s mother.
At the conclusion of act two, Hamlet begins to hatch a strategy that will help move the plot forward. This plan is to write a play that Claudius will feel so remorseful about that he would confess his crime. “Hum, I’ve heard / That guilty people who are sitting in the theatre / Sometimes feel a deep remorse just from / Watching a play.” Hamlet believes that the play will be so true to Claudius’s crime, that the King will have no choice but to react with extreme guilt. Hamlet is confident in his plan, and trusts Horatio to help him carry it out.
While Hamlet is certainly not wrong about the power of theatre, his plan does not go as smoothly as he might have hoped. Claudius is indeed guilty of murdering Hamlet’s father, but he does not react with remorse when he sees the play. Instead, he becomes enraged and orders Hamlet to leave Denmark immediately.
Hamlet’s plan is to make a play that will mirror what happened with his father, and in turn, force Claudius to confess. Hamlet believes that “The spirit that I have seen / May be the devil, and the devil hath power / T’ assume a pleasing shape, yea, and perhaps / Out of my weakness and my melancholy, / As he is very potent with such spirits, / Abuses me to damn me” (2.2.578-583). Hamlet starts to become paranoid and begins to think that the Ghost is not really his father’s spirit, but instead the Devil in disguise trying to lure Hamlet into committing sin. Hamlet’s thoughts and actions become more erratic, and his mental state starts to deteriorate.
While Hamlet is speaking to Ophelia, he says some things that could be interpreted in multiple ways. For example, Hamlet tells Ophelia “Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?” (3.1.115-116). This could be interpreted as Hamlet trying to tell Ophelia that it is better for her to become a nun so she does not have to deal with the problems that come with being a woman, such as bearing children out of wedlock.
However, this could also be seen as Hamlet telling Ophelia that she should go to a nunnery because she is not good enough for him and that he believes she is going to sin. Hamlet’s words and actions become more and more erratic as the play goes on, which causes Ophelia to distance herself from Hamlet.
The death theme is also developed in act three through Hamlet’s killing of Polonius. Hamlet hides behind a curtain in Gertrude’s chamber, waiting for Claudius to come talk to her about Hamlet’s behaviour. While Hamlet is waiting, Polonius comes into the room to talk to Gertrude about Hamlet, and Hamlet mistakenly kills him thinking it was Claudius.