The Importance Of Natural Language In Hamlet In William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Decent Essays

“Something is Rotten in the state of Denmark” (Shakespeare, 1.5.1780) How much power does a king have? In Early Modern England this question was not one of politics and militaries, but of a natural social order. The Great Chain of Being Places a King above his country; if the king becomes corrupted so does the state and in turn, the natural world will become diseased and rank. Shakespeare’s use natural language in hamlet indicates an adherence to The Great Chain of Being. The corruption of the natural world is a metaphor for the corruption of the state by the perverse actions of Claudius and Gertrude. These metaphors refer to corrupt animals and plants, to disease and death, and ultimately connect to the fall of man. Hamlet’s …show more content…

Disease and infection, pungent and potent, is caused by this “Murder most foul” (1.5.1781). This blight rests upon Claudius and Gertrude, and their sin, disease, and disorder is conferred to Denmark. As the king and queen of Denmark, Claudius and Gertrude’s actions directly influence their domain. Hamlet reflects the great chain of being in this way, applying the rulers infections and guilt to Denmark. As Marcellus says, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” This statement is more than an ill portent, but a judgement on a country led by rotten rulers. Like a weeds the sin overtook the country. Like Gertrude’s sexual depravity, “'tis an unweeded garden,/That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature” (1.2.1772). These references to environmental corruption illustrate the decay that results from moral pollution. Claudius and Gertrude’s marital bed is already cursed: as the Ghost says, “So lust, though to a radiant angel linked/Will sate itself in a celestial bed/ and prey on garbage.” If the king and the queen are dining on “garbage,” the natural world must follow in turn. Hamlet describes crime and conspiracy in terms of weeds, “Repent what’s past, avoid what is to come/And

Get Access