Corruption In Hamlet Essay

1280 Words6 Pages
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, written in the 1600’s, subverts the conventions of traditional revenge tragedies to explore the dilemma of Hamlet- a young Danish prince, who must make morally complex choices, after the ghost of his father exhorts him to kill Claudius in revenge. It is Hamlet’s restless intellect, which forces him into uncertainty about the ethics of the deed he’s sworn to do. Hamlet is a powerful and enduring play because of its central moral dilemma, which transcends political concerns of the Elizabethan period, making it a play for all ages. It addresses the timeless themes of human mortality, corruption and deception in the form of a dramatic play that contemporary audiences can appreciate. Shakespeare’s Hamlet asks profound…show more content…
Claudius is the antagonist of the play and the heart of the play’s moral corruption, characterised as being a shrewd “smiling, damned villain”. He is a corrupt politician and is used a symbol to represent the rottenness that pervades Denmark, for it is his relationship with Hamlet’s mother Gertrude, that enrages Hamlet and brings sexual infidelity and incest to the Danish court. Shakespeare emphasises images of decay and disease repeatedly throughout the play to convey the corrupt nature of Elsinore and its court. The corruption is foreshadowed early on in the play through the dramatic device of the ghost, prompting Marcellus to exclaim “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. Using pathetic fallacy, the disfiguring of the natural world is used to represent the rot at the heart of the Danish court. Shakespeare also uses the animal images of an “incestuous (…) adulterate beast” and “the serpent that did sting thy fathers life” to represent Claudius. The biblical reference highlights the devilish characteristics of Claudius for Shakespeare uses his physical and emotional state to represent the moral decay spreading throughout Elsinore. Moreover, Shakespreare presents the idea that the moral fabric of society in Elsinore is rotting because of the dishonest and corrupt behaviour of the king Claudius (who took…show more content…
The idea of deception is first introduced in Act 1 when Gertrude questions Hamlet as to why he is grieving his father’s death more than necessary. However, Hamlet responds stating “Seems, madam! Nay it is I know not ‘seems”, illustrating the disparity between how things appear and how they really are. Many of the characters present a false façade, hiding their true incentives reflecting this idea. Hamlet himself is obsessed with seeking out the truth, yet he hides his own feelings and intentions by putting on an “antic disposition”. The dramatic irony continues throughout the play for Hamlet’s lover Ophelia believes that “he had been loosed out of hell to speak of horrors”, while her father Polonius understands that “This is the very ecstasy of love”. Furthermore the notion of illusion of illusion can be seen the contrast between the ‘real’ and ‘seeming’ kings of Denmark. Shakespeare uses a variety of mythical images to compare Hamlet’s father to Claudius. Old Hamlet is described as having “Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself” which is juxtaposed with the description of Claudius who is described as a “Mildewed ear”. Shakespeare also investigates the theme by using the repeated motif painted faces, to highlight that the women in the play are deceptive and deceitful by applying make up and acting feminine.
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