Corruption and Mortality in Hamlet

2098 words 9 pages
Corruption and Mortality in Hamlet

Hamlet is arguably one of the most complex characters in literature, and most certainly within Shakespeare's realm. He can be both weak and admirable, and he defies the explanation of many readers I am sure. Death is a constant presence in HAMLET, right from the beginning of the play the themes of death and mortality set in with the death of King Hamlet. From then on, young Hamlet cannot stop questioning the meaning of life and more importantly, its' eventual end. In Hamlet's mind, it is not the idea of dying that frightens him; it's the uncertainty of what comes after death. This uncertainty overcomes him with obsession over death, suicide and mortality as a whole. Throughout the play, many key
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Infant mortality rates were very high and plagues swept nations without fail, Altick makes brief mention of this in his article saying "Every Elizabethan citizen knew from personal observation the reek of a wound or sore." He goes on to say that it was habitual for Shakespeare to use allusions of rotting flesh to symbolize ideas in his plays, "In Hamlet however, he not only lays heavier emphasis upon bodily corruption, but stresses the revolting odors that accompany the process." (167) Altick claims that the corruption of “mortal flesh” begins with Marcellus’s famous first statement, and ends with Hamlet’s interaction with the Gravediggers in Act 5, saying the theme of corruption climaxes in this scene. “All the preceding imagery and word-play dealing with the odor of mortality have pointed toward this scene.” (172) I find this to be true; Hamlet’s attitude towards death completely differs from that of the gravediggers, but in a way that is eye-opening to readers and brings much of the prior events to the surface. His view of death is not inconsistent with theirs, but it is different in that their implications are more physical, and comical than his. As Hamlet peruses the skulls in the graveyard speaking of who they belonged to and what they may have accomplished, the gravediggers sing of


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