Hamlet's Obsession With Death
In Hamlet, William Shakespeare presents the main character Hamlet as a man who is fixated on death. Shakespeare uses this obsession to explore both Hamlet's desire for revenge and his need for assurance. In the process, Shakespeare directs Hamlet to reflect on basic principles such as justice and truth by offering many examples of Hamlet's compulsive behavior; as thoughts of death are never far from his mind. It is apparent that Hamlet is haunted by his father's death. When Hamlet encounters the ghost of his father, their conversation raises all kinds of unthinkable questions, for example murder by a brother, unfaithful mother, that triggers Hamlet's obsession. He feels compelled to determine the reliability of the ghost's statements so that he can determine how he must act. Ultimately, it is his obsession with death that leads to Hamlet avenging the death of his father by killing Claudius. In act 3, Hamlet questions the unbearable pain of life and views death through the metaphor of sleep. "To be or not to be: that is the question: / whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer / the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles / and, by opposing end them. To die, to sleep / no more" (3.1.64-68), details which bring up new thoughts about what happens in the after life. Thus, Hamlet contemplates suicide, but his lacking knowledge about what awaits him in the afterworld causes him to question what death will bring. For example he states, "The undiscovered country, from whose bourn / no traveler returns, puzzles the will / and makes us rather bear those ills we have / than fly to others that we know not of" (3.1.87-90), again revealing his growing concern with "Truth" and his need for certainty. Once again, death appears in act 4 with the suicide of Ophelia, the demand for Hamlet's execution and the gravedigger scene. All of these situations tie back with how death is all around...
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