Death and Decay in Hamlet

Word Count
south georiga state college
Andrew Curtin
ENGL 1102 TH 9:30
April 8, 2019
Death and Decay in Hamlet
Death is one of the only things in life that is promised to any human being. Some are
taken too young, and some live to become old and wise. “Hamlet” was written by Shakespeare in
1599, and showed a deeper understanding of death than most people understood back in the early
ages. In “Hamlet,” sickness, decay and death are major themes that can be seen throughout the
entirety of the play. The play is considered a tragedy just from all the sickness and death that
appears throughout the plot line. This leaves the readers pondering over Shakespeare's
experience and relationship with death, and what he endured throughout his life time to be able
to write such a dark play that focuses on tragedy and revenge.
Hamlet” begins with the former King of Denmark, also Hamlet’s father, dying with no
real explanation, and his brother, Claudius, taking his throne and marrying his former wife. This
is the first death that is present in the play, and sets up the storyline for the rest of it. A ghost that
resembles the former King of Denmark comes back to the castle and wants to speak with
Hamlet. When Hamlet talks to the ghost, it claims that he is his father, and he was murdered by
Claudius. The death of the former king can be seen as something that drives the storyline
because without the death of his father, along with his ghost coming to the castle, Hamlet would
have no reason to try to get revenge on his uncle.
Curtin 2
Hamlet does not act on revenge to his uncle right away. Instead Hamlet starts becoming
irritated with everyone, especially the women in his life, and also starts to contemplate the
thought of suicide. Suicide is a type of death that does not come natural to a human being.
Although a natural death of someone is mournful, suicide is tragic. Along with the suicidal
thoughts, the irritability is also a concern to the readers of “Hamlet.” These irritable thoughts,
especially towards women, raises some red flags to Claudius and Polonius.
Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain, thinks Hamlet is acting this way because he is in love
with Ophelia, his daughter. When spying on the meeting between Ophelia and Hamlet, Claudius
notices that Hamlet is very aggressive towards her. This is the sick side, or the “decaying” side of