Being that death is a universally explored topic, William Shakespeare, a master of English literature, opted to thoroughly investigate this complex notion in his play Hamlet. Shakespeare cleverly and sometimes subtly brings the reader/viewer through a physical and spiritual journey of death via the several controversial characters of Hamlet. The chief element of this expedition is undoubtedly the funerals. Every funeral depicts, and marks, the conclusion of different perceptions of death. Shakespeare uses the funerals of the several controversial characters to gradually transform the simple, spiritual, naÃ¯ve, and somewhat light view of death into a much more factual, physical, serious, and down to earth outlook.
The first scene of Hamlet has Bernardo, Marcellus, and Horatio, trying to exchange words with the apparition of King Hamlet. Placing an apparition in the play immediately suggests that those who die continue on to some sort of afterlife and even have the privilege of returning to the materialistic world as a spirit. This represents the spiritual and blissful view of death. This view is continually portrayed when Claudius laments the death of his brother
The King then recites the terse eulogy to his brother that he murdered:
?Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother?s death
The memory be green, and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom
To be contracted in one brow of woe?
To our most valiant brother ? so much for him.
Now for ourself and for this time of meeting.
Thus much the business is?(1.2.1-30).
In this eulogy, King Claudius gives a very meaningful speech glorifying the dead King Hamlet and then callously stops, and begins speaking about the threat of ...
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...he dead for their lives lived. For we will never know whether or not there is a world to come.
Notice how Shakespeare casually brings us through this voyage of death from the naÃ¯ve spiritual view to the physical view to the sensible view. Notice how death evolves from two characters sharing the view that death is spiritual to two characters debating on the view of death (with one character giving in to the physical approach, to two characters sharing a completely physical approach to death, to Fortinbras? final view of death. Throughout the play, Shakespeare cunningly shows all the possible views of death and concluded with the universally sufficient perspective that death is imminent and we should glorify the dead for their lives lived and simply hope that there is a contented world to come.
Shakespear, William. Hamlet. Don Mills
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