Hamlet's Obsession With Death
In Hamlet, William Shakespeare presents the main character Hamlet as a man who is fixated on death. Shakespeare uses this obsession to explore both Hamlet's desire for revenge and his need for assurance. In the process, Shakespeare directs Hamlet to reflect on basic principles such as justice and truth by offering many examples of Hamlet's compulsive behavior; as thoughts of death are never far from his mind. It is apparent that Hamlet is haunted by his father's death. When Hamlet encounters the ghost of his father, their conversation raises all kinds of unthinkable questions, for example murder by a brother, unfaithful mother, that triggers Hamlet's obsession. He feels compelled to determine the reliability
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Hamlet's obsession with death also fuels his desire for revenge, for instance when he revisits the ghost and he explains how he died. Hamlet, saying, "O my prophetic soul! My uncle'" (1.5.48), realizes that Claudius, his uncle and the new King, is the one who killed his father. The ghost demands that Hamlet revenge his father's death and the treacherous acts of the murderer. The ghost already has an idea in his own mind about his revenge when he says, "But howsomever thou pursues this act, / taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive / against thy mother aught" (1.5.91-93). Hamlet hides his desire for revenge by saying, "There's never a villain Dwelling in all Denmark but he's an arrant knave" (1.5.137-138). When Hamlet finds out that his friends had heard the whole conversation between the ghost and himself, he makes them swear not to say a thing, and intentionally pretends to be crazy. Hamlet's madness also allows him to avoid truth in his pursuit of revenge. Although Hamlet overtly wants to know the truth, his behavior is quite contradicting. By avoiding a confrontation with Claudius and accusing him directly of wrongdoing, Hamlet also avoids the possibility of truly knowing what happened.
In general, however, Hamlet is a man who needs to be in control of his actions and assured of the outcomes. Hamlet does not act rashly, but continuously delays his actions while he tries to obtain more accurate knowledge about