The Theme Of Decay And Disease In Shakespeare's Hamlet

1520 Words 7 Pages
Decay and disease are ever present within the natural world, in both physical and metaphorical forms. Disease may entail physical degradation, while an internal interpretation may represent corruption or emotional turmoil. In Hamlet, Shakespeare weaves motifs of disease and decay into every scene to illustrate Denmark’s underlying corruption. Images of decay and rotting, plus their spreading effects, are present symbols of the infectious quality of sin. The motifs of disease and decay manifest the metaphorical and physical corruption of Denmark to promote the idea of the nation as a diseased body. The play’s early scenes explore the sense of anxiety and dread that surrounds Denmark after the nation’s transfer of power. Francisco relates, “’Tis …show more content…
Moreover, Hamlet describes the Denmark’s air as “no other thing … than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors” (II.ii.298-299). Hamlet’s sickening description of Denmark furthers the feeling of its decay, and such diction promotes a sickly feeling within the audience. Additionally, his judgment places Denmark as a personified entity and alludes to the developing disconnect within the country. Imagery of physical infections and mental corruption parallels the sins of drunkenness and adultery to reinforce Denmark’s deterioration. Hamlet asserts, “Nay, but to live / In the rank sweat of an enseamèd bed, / Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love / Over the nasty sty” (III.iv.92-95). This imagery parallels the corruption within the political powers of Denmark; the country is frequently described as a physical body made ill by the moral dishonor of Claudius and Gertrude. Hamlet’s accusations attest to the foundational corruption between Claudius’ and Gertrude’s marital position, and his statement suggests that the royal powers expedite the …show more content…
Throughout the play, Hamlet strives to separate his noble qualities from surrounding corruption and misfortune; however, his overall persona is notably diseased by his melancholy and mania. He proclaims, “But I am pigeon-livered and lack gall” (II.ii.554). Hamlet’s compromised will eventually overpowers his disposition, and his reference to a dove implies that he has no capacity to feel resentment or to seek revenge. His lack of response could represent a deficiency in the “humour responsible for generating … bitter and rancorous feelings” (Levy 85). This diseased will presents a dichotomy between the corruption of powers and Hamlet’s quest for revenge. It suggests that one seeking something good may be impervious to infectious outer forces, but is not immune to one’s internal, emotional decay. Likewise, Hamlet allows his instability to propel him into irrational action, such as stabbing blindly at the arras; however, he simultaneously feels his “thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth” (IV.iv.65; Levy 85). Such a breaking point is where Hamlet relinquishes his desire for emotional control, and one senses his mania. Hamlet’s introspection further expands this control paradox. The antagonist states, “I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give

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