William Shakespeare is famous for his use of language and puns, his jests and motifs. The characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet use language to communicate ideas, distort truth, and manipulate other people. In Hamlet there are numerous recurring ideas, which serve as motifs. One of these recurring images is disease. The characters use the imagery of “disease” in correlation to sickness and rottenness.
Sickness enters Denmark when the Great Chain of Being is disrupted. Early in the first scene, when Francisco and Barnardo are standing watch, Francisco mentions that he is ill. “Tis bitter cold,/ And I am sick at heart” (I.i. 8-9).
Francisco is the first (that the reader knows of) character to become ill. Francisco’s sickness foreshadows the encompassing sickness, which is entering Denmark. The sickness in Denmark continues when Horatio is contemplating the reasons for the ghost’s appearance. “Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse” (I.i. 132).
Horatio is describing the conditions in Rome just before the murder of Julius Caesar. He believes that the appearance of the Ghost is a portent to Denmark, as the sick moon was a portent to Rome. Sickness is important here because the murder of Julius Caesar parallel’s the murder of King Hamlet. In his first soliloquy, Hamlet says of the world, “Things rank and gross in nature/ Possess it merely” (I.ii. 140-141).
He feels that the whole world is diseased, that it is “an unweeded garden / That grows to seed.” Hamlet is right to feel the world is sick, it became that way with the murder of his father. The sickness motif is extended with questions of Hamlet’s mental health.. After the play Hamlet is asked by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to go to his mother. Hamlet replies that he cannot because he is mad. “Make you a wholesome answer. My wit’s/ diseased” (III.ii. 349-350).
On How Tragedy Leads to Deception in: "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" In the play "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark," William Shakespeare has used the theme of deception, and how its use by one or more characters leads to their downfall. Polonius explicitly stated this theme when he said to Laertes in I, ii, "By indirections find directions out." Each major character in Hamlet, ...
Hamlet’s “diseased wit” is the encompassing thought of whether or not to kill Claudius. He is sickened by the dilemma of what is right or wrong. The Queen becomes sick when she hears of Ophelia’s madness. “To my sick soul (as sin’s true nature is)” (IV.iv. 21).
The Queen’s sick soul represents the disease she carries. When one is troubled with guilt or sinful thinking, hir or her soul is not at rest and hurts because of it. Shakespeare recognizes sickness as a downfall of man. For many characters in Hamlet, sickness is a result of foul action. Foul action or wrongdoing leads to sickness in the real world as well.
Like sickness, rottenness is also a downfall of man. Rottenness first plagues Hamlet while he is lamenting over his father’s death. He is unhappy with his Mother’s hasty, incestuous marriage.
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good.
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue. (I.ii. 162-164)
To the Prince, the union of his mother and uncle is foul and unnatural. Hamlet feels the marriage is rotten and should never have occurred. The theme of rottenness continues when the Ghost enters the play. Marcellus and Horatio believe the ghost’s appearance is a sign that something is wrong in Demark. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (I.v. 100).
Marcellus knows that something is rotten and is proven correct when Hamlet learns of his father’s murder. The ghost even tells Hamlet that only a rotting, fat weed would be unmoved by his tale of treacherous murder. Rottenness continues when Hamlet tells Polonius that the dead meat of a dog breeds maggots in the sunlight. In his rambling insanity, Hamlet stresses the rottenness and corruption of relationships and life. King Claudius also feels rotten about his evil deeds. His offense is rank and his sin reeks to heaven. Tainted by his brother’s decaying blood, Claudius is trapped by his sin and cannot purge his tainted soul.
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the main character in the play is brought into a state of melancholy and depression over his father’s death and his mother’s incestuous marriage with his father’s brother. This causes Hamlet to seek counsel in his friendship with Horatio because of his loyalty and good qualities. Other characters in the play are willing to sacrifice their friendship ...
O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t,
A brother’s murder. Pray Can I not (III.iii. 40-43).
Claudius is filled with guilt because of his actions; he knows he cannot pray for forgiveness until he confesses. Though Hamlet does not come to an answer for the purpose of rottenness, Shakespeare does. Shakespeare explains rottenness as a cause King Hamlet’s death. After the Great Chain of Being was disrupted, many things went wrong in Denmark; hence the rottenness.
In Hamlet, disease is used multiple times and in various ways. Sickness and rottenness take place at two related levels: within individuals and in the body politic. In their assorted forms, sickness and rottenness create a sense of imagery throughout the play. Imagery helps to individualize the major characters of the drama, announces and elaborates major themes, and reiterates the distinctive atmosphere of the tragedy. Only the greatest playwrights can use imagery in this way; Shakespeare, of course, is the best.