The Importance of Maintaining Moral Order as it Relates to Hamlet by William Shakespeare's
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." (Hamlet. 1.4, l.90) In every society a distinctive hierarchy or organization of power exists. In the Shakespearean world, life is kept constant through the maintenance of the Great Chain of Being or moral order. Any disruption in this chain is believed to cause chaos in society. In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Denmark is thrown into chaos by the reckless actions of several characters that fail to follow the moral order. Hamlet is instructed by the ghost of his beloved father to restore order to Denmark and seek revenge on Claudius, the present king of Denmark and murderer of his father. By identifying the various levels of disorder in Denmark an evaluation of the effectiveness of Hamlet's "antic disposition" as a plan to restore order will be made.
Throughout the play there are various factors that contribute to the disorder in Denmark. Chaos is even evident in the relationships and friendships Hamlet is involved with during the course of the play. In Act 1.Scene 3, Polonius ends the relationship between Hamlet and his daughter Ophelia. His reasoning is that Hamlet is merely flirting with Ophelia for the sake of his own amusement and he will not maintain anything more than a temporary attachment. However, the audience's knowledge of Hamlet's character convinces them that Polonius entirely misjudges the nature of the prince's sentiments towards Ophelia. His love for her is innocent and pure, yet their relationship is cut off and forbidden to continue. In contrast, the relationship between Claudius and Gertrude is corrupt and unnatural and yet no one breaks them up or even questions their marriage. Another problem occurring in Denmark at the time is the amount of back stabbing between friends. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are to have met Hamlet at school and become quite close. However, these characters are quick to turn on their friend and work for the king. They are false friends who are sent by Gertrude and Claudius to discover what is wrong with their son. Their knowledge is superficial and their intelligence mediocre, so they are easily outwitted by Hamlet. They are fools, rather than knaves and their immoral and despicable work for the king behind Hamlet's back adds to the disorder in Denmark.
At the beginning of the play there are many political and legal matters that contribute to Denmark's chaos. The preparation for the expected battle with Fortinbras adds to the prime thematic idea of revenge that occurs within the play. The marriage of Queen Gertrude to her past husband's brother seems unusual as well. Hamlet's despair stems from his mother's marriage to his uncle and it is this that is the driving force behind his yearning to set things right. By custom, Gertrude should have mourned her royal husband for at least one year...