Image Of Death Illustrated In Shakespeare's Hamlet

1116 words - 4 pages

The character of Hamlet is very diverse and has incredible depth. He is described as a very melancholy and thoughtful young man. He is a student at the University of Wittenberg, and the current heir to the throne of Demark, which seem to be a very hopeful prospect. However, ever since his father’s death and plea for revenge upon his brother, Hamlet has been deterred from this request by lengthy ponderings of the purpose of a person’s life and their memorial after death.
From the very beginning of the play, Hamlet is seen as being a person who is very conscious of mortality. The first time that we see him, he is mourning the recent death of his father and dressed in, as he refers to it, an “inky cloak” (1.2.77). Claudius and Gertrude are both trying to talk some sense into him by telling him that people lose fathers all the time and that he is no different from anyone else in the world. Gertrude asks him why he “seems” so sad, and he quickly replies that he doesn’t just “seem” sad, but that he really is sad and grieving for his lost father. Claudius tells him that “obstinate condolement is a course of impious stubbornness. ‘Tis unmanly grief.” (1.2.93-94) The irony here is that Claudius is telling Hamlet that his excessive mourning is a “fault to heaven, A fault against the dead, a fault to nature” (1.2.101-102) when he himself is the murderer, this being the much greater fault.
The image of death is brought back up many different times through the play. One of the first major events is when Hamlet is visited by the ghost of his own father. This embodiment of death starts the flow of the whole story when he exposed the means and manner of his death by his own brother, Claudius’s hand. He entreats Hamlet to exact revenge for this untimely murder by a close relative. Hamlet is immediately ready to follow the instructions, but all too soon is caught up by many questions regarding the validity of this request. Such as, is the ghost really telling the truth, how would be the best way to exact revenge, and when should he kill him to avoid sending him straight to paradise.
These questions and others are so hard on Hamlet that he contemplates suicide on several different occasions. The most famous of which is the “to be, or not to be” soliloquy. (3.1.58-90) During this monologue, Hamlet ponders the question of to exist or not to exist. Would it be better to live, and endure the troubles of life, or just end it all? He refers to death as simply sleeping, but then realizes that with sleeping comes the threat of dreaming. He concludes that the uncertainty of death and the afterlife is what makes all men cowardly. This insecurity of what happens after death is one of the main reasons preventing Hamlet from going through with his idea of suicide.
After the death of Polonius, Claudius confronts Hamlet and demands the body. Hamlet replies that he is “at supper” (4.3.17), but not that...

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