“HAMLET,” written in 1601 by William Shakespeare, portrays images of sickness, disease, and decay which all come together to create a world of corruption. The human nature in Denmark is slowly confined and replaced with hate and discouragement for the entire kingdom, as well as nature itself. Hamlet, son to the recently deceased King of Denmark, Hamlet senior, is a young man whose speech contains the ingredients of melancholy mixed with a significant amount of indignation. Anyone would seek revenge for their father’s death if they knew that he was murdered by an uncle, especially if that uncle was now the new king. In this play the center focus in on the mind of Hamlet, for it is he who creates these hideous images so that he can overcome what has happened while he was away at university. Finding out that his mother, Gertrude, has married with the new king not even “a little month”(I, ii. l.147) after the death of her previous husband, only adds to the images in his head that will eventually have to be revealed. No one else in the whole play shares the “vulgar words and displays a frivolous and sarcastic disgust for the world”(Clemen, The Imagery.229) as Hamlet does. In everyday experience people find that they also have their own level of disgust for the world—whether it is because of bad news, or plainly the people who we are surrounded by.

First of all, the play starts with a conversation between a few of the king’s guards on the outer ramparts of the palace in Denmark. The men are questioning each other if they have seen the ghost of King Hamlet while on watch that night. “I have seen nothing,”(I. i. l.11) remarks Bernardo. Horatio, a scholar, has been brought along on the escapade so that he can question “this apparition”(I. i. l.28) when it appears again. King Hamlet’s spirit comes to the gentlemen, but remains mute when talked to until finally, “it stalks away”(I. i. l.50). Horatio marks that he would not have believed them if he had not been there to see it for himself. Marcellus tells Horatio that he and some fellow guards have seen the king twice before. Horatio then makes the verdict that this could only mean that there is “some strange eruption to our state”(I. i. l.69). Usually if a person can still be seen after they are dead, it means that they have not confessed before dying and are therefore stalking the earth until what has happened is settled. This is an example of how sickness and decay have come forth to infect the minds of all that see King Hamlet’s ghost. Nothing good can come of this and the guards know it.

When Hamlet finds out that his mother has remarried with his uncle and realizes that Claudius is his new father, he does not know how to handle his frustrations towards them both. The first of Hamlet’s great soliloquies describes this emotional highway that he is on by hinting that Hamlet wishes to commit “self-slaughter”(I. ii. l.132). He wishes that his “too too-solid flesh would melt, /Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!” (I, ii. ll.129-130), and he compares the world to an “unweeded garden”(I. ii. l.135). This is the first time that Hamlet unleashes his thoughts on the situation and creates a visualization of sickness, disease, and decay for his environment. Sickness would be the thought of suicide because he would have to be desperate for an escape such as that. The imagery of decay is mentioned when Hamlet wishes that his flesh would start melting— dripping to the ground with a stench that could basically gag a maggot. When picturing a beautiful garden corrupted by disastrous weeds or the disease that will destroy the good life, the real imagery about the way Hamlet feels is brought forth. Maybe this is said by Hamlet to let the onlookers know that he thinks that Claudius is the bad weed in the state of Denmark. Hamlet often “cloaks his real meaning under quibbles and puns, images and parables”(Clemen.230). The other characters think that Hamlet is crazy, but the audience knows more and can understand his true situations.

In Act 1, scene 4, the ghost appears again, only this time Hamlet is present. It beckons Hamlet to follow but Horatio and Marcellus say, “You shall not go, my lord” (l.79). Disobeying his friends, Hamlet follows the ghost—curious of why. Marcellus and Horatio go along to make sure that he is all right. Horatio asks Marcellus what he thinks will happen and he responds that “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (l.90), which simply means that something weird or unearthly is now the prediction for the future for the kingdom. Imagine an object sitting out and rotting. Isn’t it mold or mildew that starts to form? Well, Marcellus knows that the ghost is the mold that is trying to form or create an impact on Hamlet in some way. Their only question to this is…why?

The ghost of the late king explains to Hamlet his “most unnatural murder” (I, v, l.25) and how Claudius is the one who poured the poison into his ear causing his death. Not suspecting a thing, Hamlet is appalled at the thought and seems skeptical because he does not know whether or not the ghost is an evil one or not. The ghost goes on to tell that Claudius seduced Gertrude while he was still in the flesh, therefore, suggesting an affair. Of course, this would make Hamlet even angrier. “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life / Now wears his crown”(I, v, ll.39-40). Hamlet Sr. almost seems like a disease or a sickness because his words are bringing Hamlet down and tearing him apart inside. People might even add decay to this as well for it is many ugly thoughts that begin to further rot Hamlet’s mind and soul.

When the Lord Chamberlain, Polonius, finds out that Hamlet has written his daughter, Ophelia, a love letter, he takes it and shows the king and queen. A plan is made for Claudius and Polonius to spy on a conversation between the two to see if they truly are in love. The king and queen exit, leaving Polonius alone with the approaching Hamlet. They greet each other and Hamlet first offends Polonius and then turns his insults to Ophelia. He tells Polonius not to let his daughter go out in the sun because the sun breeds “maggots in a dead dog”(II, ii, l.179). That means that Ophelia should stay away from Hamlet for as long as possible. He is like the dead dog because he likes sex and will gladly be the host of the maggots or Ophelia whenever he can. The image of maggots consuming a dead dog makes most people want to hurl. These sick thoughts of decay and disease get worse as Hamlet seeks revenge for his father’s death.

At the end of Act 2, scene 2, Hamlet is getting the facts straight on whether or not he should kill Claudius or not. By creating a play to be performed in front of the courtiers that shadows what the ghost has explained, Hamlet hopes to “catch the conscience of the king”(l.603). This will prove that Claudius is guilty and Hamlet can put an end to the disease that has killed his father. Claudius has corrupted Hamlet’s life by not knowing how to control his sickness and jealousy for his brother’s achievements. By killing King Hamlet, Claudius has brought forth an evil doing which he can not take back. Now, Hamlet has to set it right.

Hamlet and Ophelia meet in the castle and Ophelia returns her “rich gifts” (III, i. l.102) because now she knows that he does not love her anymore. Hamlet tells her that he has never loved her at all. Ophelia is shocked that he would say such a thing to her. He commands Ophelia to get herself to a nunnery so that she will remain a virgin— hidden away from people like him. Hamlet says that if she does marry, he will give “thee the plague for / thy dowry”(III, i. ll.135-136). It appears that Hamlet has completely lost his mind because he has just explained to the girl, who he has been with, that she is a nobody. Hamlet goes on to tell her that she shall not have sex in her marriage and that she should “marry a fool; / for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them”(III, i. lll.138-140). Who does he think he is telling her what to do after the way he has been treating her! Hamlet has been plagued with his own disease and has his mind set on getting back at Claudius. The problem is that he is taking it out on everyone else instead.

While the play “The Mouse-trap” is taking place, Hamlet is constantly looking at Claudius and Gertrude’s expressions. The actor on stage says “Thou mixture rank, … / With Hecate’s ban thrice blasted, thrice infected”(III, ii, ll.252-253) and pours poison in the player king’s ear. With this, Claudius commands that the play be ended and thus convincing Hamlet that he is guilty. “The play lets Claudius see clearly that Hamlet knows his guilt”(Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.54). Gertrude has no clue about the murder because it is her that has remained relaxed throughout the play and is only alarmed now because Claudius is upset. By putting poison in someone’s ear, they start to slowly die and for the person who has poured it, it should be a terrible sight to see. For a person to do this, they would most likely be insane. The imagery of disease and decay of the human body has only been mentioned a few times so far, but as Shakespeare’s play continues, more and more occurrences take place.

At the end of Act 3, scene 2, Hamlet has been beckoned to his mother’s chambers to discuss why Claudius is so disturbed. When obeying her orders, he gives himself a pep talk before arriving at her closet. Hamlet says “Let me be cruel, not unnatural: / I will speak daggers to her, but use none”(III, ii, ll.386-387). To control his anger, Hamlet remembers that the ghost has told him to leave his mother alone. Even though he is rageing mad, he has to keep his cool around her. To let out his frustrations about her marrying Claudius so blindly, he will be sarcastic and down on her. The angrier that Hamlet gets, the more sick ideas pop into his head.

Claudius tries to pray for forgiveness, but can not because he is not sorry for what he has done. He will not give up the throne because that would mean that he would have to give up his ambition and queen also. Hamlet watches from afar while hearing the words “Forgive me my foul murder”(III, iii, l.53). Ready to kill, Hamlet eases off knowing that if he killed Claudius now, he would go straight to heaven. He has to wait for a better moment to murder the murderer.

Hamlet arrives at Gertrude’s chambers and finally tells her what he thinks of Claudius and their marriage. He explains that he is not insane and that he knows how her previous husband has died. For the grace of her soul she must stop going on with Claudius and start confessing for her sins. Claudius will only “skin and film the ulcerous place…. while it / Infects unseen”(III, iv, ll.149-151). Gertrude must not sleep with Claudius anymore because he might infect her with the same disease that he has.

In the beginning of Act 4, the queen is telling Claudius about the most recent news. Polonius has been killed in her room by Hamlet. He was hiding behind the curtains, eavesdropping, and was stabbed when heard. The king asks where her son is now and the queen lies for Hamlet by saying that “he weeps for what is done”(IV, i. l.27). Claudius realizes that Hamlet thought that it was him who was there. “Hamlet, too, is caught in the web of crime”(Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of.55).

Laertes, son of Polonius, comes to the castle to get information on his father’s murder and finds a hysterical Ophelia talking all sorts of nonsence. She pretends to give him different flowers that represent something, but when she comes to the violets, which resemble faithfulness, she says that they have all withered “when my father died” (IV, v. l.182). Imagery of decay is present because both her father and the flowers have died.

The end of Act 4 is when Laertes and the king are planning how they will defeat Hamlet. The king’s idea is that by dipping Laertes’ sword in poison, Hamlet will die when cut. “Hamlet, the son who has to revenge a dear father murdered, has himself murdered a father and will fall by the vengeance of the son”(George Rylands, Hamlet.12).

Ophelia has committed a sin—suicide. She had to be unhappy and her disease that has corrupted her life ever since her ex-lover had killed her father, has finally taken toll. Now, she too can be buried in the cold ground.

Hamlet knows that he must pay for his sin and is not afraid to die. The king, queen, lords, and attendants all gather to see Laertes and Hamlet have a sword fight. A cup full of poison is to be for Hamlet, but Gertrude drinks the drink and dies. King Claudius feels little remorse for his dead queen. Hamlet and Laertes both get injured and confess that both of their swords have poison on them and Laertes says that Claudius is to blame. Hamlet stabs Claudius and he dies. Laertes asks for forgiveness from Hamlet because he now knows that Hamlet has always been after Claudius and not his father. He then dies, forgiven. Horatio wants to kill himself because Hamlet is dying, but Hamlet prevents this by telling him that he is the only one left who can tell the story. Hamlet gives the kingdom to Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway, because he knows that he is strong and capable of the responsibility. Hamlet’s last words are that the events that have led to his downfall must “rest in silence”(V, ii, l.351). Hamlet is now dead. All of the deceased on stage right now have each lived a life with their own level of guilt, and with this, they can all rest from their corrupted lives…..all except Claudius that is. “What Claudius has done to the king, he has also done to the kingdom”(Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of.57). The sins that Claudius has committed in his life, will now send him to damnation in his after-life. The sickness and disease of Denmark has been cured.

In Shakespearean tragedies the hero must die and there is a series of deaths throughout the play to accompany this. Sickness, disease, and decay end up getting the better half of most of the characters in “HAMLET”. As described, the people in Denmark each have a dark side that most of the time stays hidden away, but can sometimes escape. Basically, that can also apply to all of the people on earth. Everyone has a good conscience and a bad conscience that tells what is right and wrong. There are people in the world that apparently can not tell this though. Much like the characters in the play, they have a disease or sickness that has corrupted their mind and bodies making them guilty of sinning in one way or another. “HAMLET” portrays a lesson learned by its audience. The moral of the story is that nothing good can come of going against the good conscience. By trying to do the right thing, everyone wins in the long run. Maybe that is the one thing that could have saved Hamlet, although this will never be known.