Death is the end of the road. However, just as important as death is what comes after it. Almost every culture or religion features some kind of afterlife, whether it be the Valhalla and Hel of Norse religion, the Underworld of the Greeks, or the Heaven and Hell of Christianity. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the titular character obsesses with what happens after death, driving much of his action (and inaction) throughout the play; however, by the end, his struggles teach him a key life lesson that is still preached today.
Hamlet’s desire for revenge indirectly starts with his obsession with death. When he finds out from Horatio that a ghost who looks like his father has been haunting the castle, he makes the decision to go and speak to the apparition. In the Shakespearian era, this decision would have likely been seen as irrational due to the various fears and superstitions regarding ghosts. When he sees the ghost with his own eyes, Hamlet is so obsessed with the deathly figure that he decides that “be [it’s] intents wicked or charitable, / [it] comest in such a questionable shape / that [he] will speak to [it]” (I, iv, 21). The ghost informs Prince Hamlet that Claudius killed King Hamlet.
After Hamlet finds this out, he sets out to avenge his father and kill his uncle. It’s not easy to kill a king, given the various protections typically afforded to one, and given an opportune chance, one would assume that he would take it. However when Hamlet discovers Claudius kneeling, appearing to be praying, in perhaps the most ideal time of the entire play, Hamlet passes on the opportunity, claiming that he will wait till
“he is drunk asleep, or in his rage / or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed, / at game, a-swearing or abo...
... middle of paper ...
... all” (V, ii, 116). He is prepared to face the onset of his death.
Hamlet’s obsession with death entirely influences the outcome of the tragedy. His actions and inactions are initially driven by the fear of mortality and the uncertainty of the afterlife. However, near the end of the play, he no longer fears death, instead embracing it in the readiness that he preaches and accepting it when it comes. Though still fixated upon his own mortality, he finally takes advantage of the obsession to achieve his own goals; the lesson Hamlet learns is one that many try to follow today. “Carpe diem,” we say - live every day as if it were your last, do what you truly believe in, because you’re wasting your time otherwise. This lesson, one of many taught through Hamlet, is one that could be well learned by the multitudes of people who hate their own lives and live in misery.
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