Disease, Decay and Poison in Hamlet

King Claudius, Hamlet, Gertrude (Hamlet)

William Shakespeares Hamlet has been considered the greatest tragedy to have ever been written, in which the theme of disease, decay and poison is embedded deep within the well-known plot of the play. Such theme is developed through the actions, dialogues and figurative language of the characters. These morbid images that are incorporated not only help the audience in grasping Hamlets true emotion, but also play a significant role in characterization, plot development and metaphorical message of the play.

Ideas about death and physical decay constantly recur in much of the imagery in Hamlet not only in order to depict the character development and convey Hamlets true emotions to the audience, but also to serve as a metaphorical message on a larger scale. For instance, the imagery of decay is utilized to help comprehend the depression Hamlet feels in his first soliloquy about suicide: O that this too sullied flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew (I.ii 129-130), followed by his comparison of the world to an unweeded garden. This is the first time that Hamlet unleashes his thoughts on the situation and creates a visualization of death. Hamlet thus communicates with the audience putting strong emphasis on his desire not to exist in this world anymore. An image of Hamlets flesh rotting is produced, followed by a picture of a beautiful garden corrupted by disastrous weeds that will destroy the good life. At this moment the audience can grasp Hamlets true emotions as they are able to feel the pain and his yearn for death. Thus, the real imagery about the way Hamlet feels is brought forth. Furthermore, when Laertes comes to the castle to get information on his fathers murder, the hysterical Ophelia pretends to give him different flowers that represent something, but when she comes to the violets, which resembles faithfulness, she says that they have all withered when my father died (IV.v 182). In this quote, the imagery of decay is present because both...
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