Symbolism Of Poison In Hamlet

1285 Words 6 Pages
It is common across many Shakespearean tragedies for at least one character to die; in Hamlet, five characters are murdered. These five (King Hamlet, Hamlet Jr., Laertes, Gertrude, and Claudius) all die as a result of being poisoned by Claudius, directly or transitively. The repeated use of poison across Shakespeare's plays is not a coincidence, and when Shakespeare uses poison in Hamlet, he sets up a strong association of poison to the corruption in man. More specifically, Shakespeare uses the poison as a symbol for the corruption of man, by associating it with murder, the need for retribution, and government.
The most obvious way that Shakespeare represents the corruption of man is through his use of poison in the five murders. In this situation
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After Ophelia dies and Laertes learns that Hamlet killed his father Laertes is very angry at Hamlet because he blames Hamlet for his family's death and he wants retribution. It is this all consuming need to “... be revenged” for the death of his father and his sister, along with Claudius’s encouragement, that spurred Laertes to duel Hamlet(4.5.153).Laertes’s need to avenge his family's death on its own shows how Shakespeare uses poison to symbolise the corruption in man. This connection is most evident in the plan that Laertes and Claudius make as it uses literal and metaphorical backstabbing with poison, because of this Shakespeare sets up the association of the poison to treachery and untrustworthiness both of which are by definition corrupt. The symbolism of poison connecting to corruption continues to expand during the duel when Hamlet is poisoned and switches swords with Laertes. Now Hamlet has the poisoned sword and Shakespeare brings out his new association to the poison and connects it to his corruption. This is evident as Hamlets need to revenge his father’s death presents its opportunity. Hamlet then “Hurts the King” and forces Claudius to “Drink off this potion” to avenge his father and kill Claudius.(5.2.353,357) This sudden turn of events shows the strong symbolism of poison to …show more content…
Claudius uses poison the most and has by far the most connections to poison and subsequently he is also the most corrupt. Laertes uses poison to kill Hamlet because Claudius said he should and this connected Claudius’s corruption to Laertes through Laertes's use of poison creates another strong connection between poison and the corruption of man. Hamlet then received the poisoned foil from Laertes and along with it his corruption being revealed, poison was again connected to the corruption of man. Through the many murders, the frequent need for retribution and the corruption of the government in Hamlet Shakespeare uses poison as a symbol for corruption; but what is corruption but the poison of the mind, madness, another thing evident in many if not all of the characters of

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