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The Theme Of Death In William Shakespeare's Hamlet

1053 words - 4 pages

The Theme of Death in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

In the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the protagonist, Hamlet is obsessed with the idea of death, and during the course of the play he contemplates death from numerous perspectives. He ponders the physical aspects of death, as seen with Yoricks's skull, his father's ghost, as well as the dead bodies in the cemetery. Hamlet also contemplates the spiritual aspects of the afterlife with his various soliloquies. Emotionally Hamlet is attached to death with the passing of his father and his lover Ophelia. Death surrounds Hamlet, and forces him to consider death from various points of view.

In the first scene of Act 5, Hamlet discovers Yorick's skull in the graveyard. While Hamlet is speaking to Yorick, his father's jester's skull, as well as about him, Hamlet focuses in on the physical deterioration of the human body. He also touches on the inevitability of death as everyone's fate. He orders the skull to "get to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come"(5.1. 178-179), which means no one can avoid death. Hamlet also imagines the jester's features still existing on the skull, consequently showing his enthrallment with the physical outcome of death on the body. This concept is a very prominent motif throughout the play. Hamlet repeatedly makes observations alluding to every man's physical decomposition. "A man may fish with the worm that have eat of the king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of the worm," a symbol in which he states, " how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar" (4.3. 26-31).

The ghost of the elder Hamlet is described as a very genuine looking ghost. The spectators continuously comment on the fact that the ghost looks precisely like the former king. "Is it not like the King? / As thou art to thyself. / Such was the very armor he had on." (1.169-71). This portrays the younger Elizabethan's belief that the line between the dead and the living was extremely blurred. A ghost could appear to anyone it chose to at any time. This particular ghost appears to only a few people in the entire play, the guards and Horatio, and young Hamlet. The ghost is mentioned several other times in the play including when young Hamlet himself sees the ghost of his father in Act 3, scene 4. "Whereon do you look? / On him, on him! Look how pale he glares. / His form and cause conjoined" (3.4. 141-3) and again "Why look you there, look how it steals away! / My father, in his habit as he lived!" (3.4. 154-5).

In Hamlet's soliloquy in Act 3, scene 1, he presents his most rational and dominating scrutiny of the moral authority to take one's own life. He presents the dilemma of whether to commit suicide and escape...

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