Hamlet, is a tragic play that takes place in Denmark, written by William Shakespeare in the sixteenth century. Shakespeare uses his characters thoughts and actions to depict the many themes in this play. Although many themes are brought to the attention of the audience, one theme stands out above the rest. The most prevalent theme presented throughout the play is corruption. Corruption is present from the very beginning of the play, and does not disappear from Denmark until each character portraying it is deceased. Shakespeare uses the images of corruption to show how easily the contagious disease can be spread through three main characters in the play, Claudius, Ophelia, and Hamlet.
Claudius, the present King of Denmark, is the contagion of corruption around the kingdom, and is the reason that corruption eventually contaminates all of Denmark. He first displays corruption when he kills his own brother solely to take over the throne, and marry Gertrude, the wife of King Hamlet. Claudius' secret is told when the ghost of his deceased brother tells Prince Hamlet the truth, “But know, thou noble youth, the serpent that did sting thy father's life now wears his crown.” (I. v. ) Not only does Claudius commit murder, but his new marriage is considered incestuous, which are both forms of corruption. In time, Claudius' power becomes corrupt, as he uses men around the kingdom to eliminate his problems so he does not have to deal with them directly. For example, he uses Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet's own friends, to spy on Hamlet throughout the entire play in order to keep a watch on his every move. Claudius also uses Laertes to try to get rid of Hamlet by engaging the two of them in a battle that Laertes was sure to win, “Or with a little shuffling, you may choose a sword unbated, and in a pass of practice requite him for your father.” (IV. vii. ) Claudius is easily threatened, and is afraid of losing all of the power he has...
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