Hamlet

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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How do the Frequent References to Death, Disease and Decay Help to Create the Dramatic Atmosphere of the Play? Throughout the play there is a consistent reference to death, disease and decay, designed by Shakespeare to introduce pathos, and to emphasise key points. By taking the references to death, decay and disease, you can see it's a strong theme that Shakespeare uses frequently and it does an excellent job of showing the gore and the harshness of the atmosphere and the time.

The appearance of the ghost creates a feeling of unease right from the start, and after it reveals it identity as the dead King, we immediately realise that something wasn't quite right. Ghosts were believed to have come from purgatory, which had come back to resolve their unfinished business and break their current state of limbo. At first, the reason for his return is unknown, and creates a feeling of unrest when he "˜stalks away' from Marcellus and his friends.

However soon after, he reveals the nature of his return to his son Hamlet, and exposes the truth behind his murder, and the guilt of his brother Claudius.

"˜Murder most foul, as in the best it is, But this most foul, strange and unnatural." 1.5.4 This presentation of corruption, not only between the ranks of power, but also within the family creates tension, but also remorse. The description of his death, poison being poured through his ear by the cowardly acts of his brother cerates a sense of desperation, as the King would have been unable to help himself.

"˜The serpent that did sting thy fathers life, now wears his crown' 1.5.35 In fact, the "˜serpent' was now dwelling with Hamlets mother, the wife of his dead brother. Hamlet saw this as a betrayal and was determined to avenge his father's murder as the ghost had told him, "˜O, horrible! O, horrible! Most horrible! If thou hast nature in thee bear it not, let not the royal bed of Denmark be A couch for luxury and damned incest"¦"¦." 1.5.68 Hamlet himself uses many references to disease. After the death of his father and marriage of his mother, his mind enters a grim state. Although he doesn't have much courage at first, he is bent on avenging his father whose murder was 'most foul.' Decay also becomes a strong item on Hamlet's mind. While talking to Polonius he says, "˜For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion' 2.2.182 Although Polonius does not recognise the significance of the phrase, we can see that this imagery really helps to get Hamlets point as well as Shakespeare's across. Imagery like this also helps out a lot with description and is more vivid than just saying "˜When the dog dies.'