Disease and Death in Hamlet Essay

992 Words 4 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
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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
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