Justification of Death in Hamlet
Beginning with the Greeks, tragedy has been an essential form of entertainment. Although it has changed slightly over time due to different religious and social values, it is still written and performed to this day. Perhaps the most well known tragedy of all time is Shakespeare's Hamlet. Hamlet is perhaps the epitome of all tragedy. Not only does the tragic hero Hamlet meet his demise, but all the main characters in the play at some point due to some flaw in their character, or some fatal decision, also meet the same fate. It is because of their character flaw and/or their fatal decision at some time during the play that their death can be justified.
Polonius, the lord Chamberlain, a counsel to the king, is the first character to be killed. As the play opens up, Polonius is depicted as a rather good person, with noapparent flaws. However, as the play progresses, Polonius possess a flaw in his character, which becomes increasingly evident throughout the play; he is extremely nosy and scrutinizing. Many times during the play Polonius is either seen spying on other characters, or arranging for characters to be spied upon. The first such incident of this occurs when his son Laertes is going off to Paris. He instructs his servant Reynaldo to spy on his while in Paris. Polonius tells him:
'And in part him, but', you may say, 'not well,
but if't it be he I mean, he's very wild,
Addicted, so and so'. And there put on him
What forgeries you may please; marry none so rank
As may dishonor him. Take heed of that.
But, sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips
As are companions noted and most known
To youth and liberty (II.I, 17-24).
The first incident in which Polonius himself serves as a spy occurs when him
and Claudius, Hamlet's uncle and king of Denmark, decides to eavesdrop on a conversation between Ophelia and Hamlet. In doing so, they wish to draw a conclusion over Hamlet's apparent insanity. Polonius instructs his daughter Ophelia,
Ophelia, walk you here. --Gracious, so please you,
We will bestow ourselves.-Read on this book,
That show of such an exercise may color
Your lonliness.-We are oft to blame in this,
'Tis too much proved, that with devotion's visage
And Pious action we do suger o'er
The Devil himself (III.I, 43-49).
Polonius' excessive nosiness leads to his death. If Polonius did not feel the need to involve himself in everyone's affairs, he would never have put himself in the position to be killed by Hamlet. Hamlet kills Polonius during Polonius' final session as a spy. After Polonius sees how Hamlet goes off on his mother and Claudius during a play performance in the castle, Polonius volunteers for the king to spy on Hamlet and his mother talking, even though the king doesn't really ask for a volunteer. During the session between Hamlet and his mother, Hamlet hears Polonius...