Imagery of Disease in Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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Imagery of Disease in Hamlet by William Shakespeare The disease imagery in Hamlet serves to constantly remind the reader of the initial problem in the play: King Hamlet's poisoning by his brother. After hearing his father graphically describe the murder, it is constantly on Hamlet's mind. For this reason, many of the images that Hamlet creates in the play are connected with disease and poison. The literal poisoning becomes symbolic of the rest of the events of the play. Remember that poisoning through the ear can be taken literally or figuratively (through speech and lies). Look at Polonius's conversation with Ophelia about Hamlet, Claudius' lies to Laertes and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. There are examples of decay imagery throughout the play. This is all shown in "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." These images of decay, disease, rankness, rot, and ulcers constantly pop up in the play. The idea of an ulcer that is constantly infecing and eating the body is also prevelant. Check out I.iv.23-38, II.ii.181, II.ii.250, II.ii.504. "The dram of eale doth all the noble substance of a doubt to his own scandal" "That for some vicious mole of nature in them. Rosencranz's "The cess of majesty..." Iv.iii "A certain convocation of politic worms..." III.iv.144-9 "It will but skin a film the ulcerous place..." The images of disease all refer to the rottenness of court or the sin of Claudius & Gertrude. Finally check out W.H. Clemen's "The Development of Shakespeare's Imagery." It is a great resource. Hope that helped! C. Watts ed., Hamlet, Harvester New Critical Introductions to Shakespeare (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1988). S. Wofford ed., Hamlet (Boston, Mass.: Bedford Books, 1994) with ac... ... middle of paper ... ... the circumstance and treachery against which they have struggled, and into which they have been entangled. Hamlet himself cannot not rule. He, too, has become corrupted, not in mind, but in history, by becoming the focus of the ancient revenger's dilemma. Not taking revenge will reduce him and make him unfit for rule by his own standards... and taking revenge will do the same. Any action is morally dubious. Though Hamlet still maintains our sympathy at the end of the play, he has murdered five people and caused the suicide of one. But Hamlet can still decide Denmark's future, by effectively appointing a successor. Thus, the corruption dies with him; all the inevitable justice is carried out; and Hamlet's legacy remains. From a morally dubious situation, Hamlet is able to wrest an honorable death, and the chance of stability for the future of his country.

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