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Something Is Rotten In Denmark Essay, Research Paper

From the beginning of time and throughout man?s existence, people have studied, theorized, and predicted as much as they could about the physical and psychological origins of evil. Many say that there are no definite boundaries or labels one could place on the term ?evil?. Several great philosophers have dedicated their lifetimes to the study of this aspect found in mankind. William Shakespeare recreates this certain evil in many of his tragic plays; readers are introduced to the terrible thoughts and actions of the most extreme villains. He uses several forms of imagery to depict corruption- another word for ?evil?- in his famous play, Hamlet. All throughout this tragedy, the reader realizes time and time again that something is indefinitely ?rotten in Denmark? (I. iiiii. 90). Shakespeare?s many metaphors of corruption give an excellent example of the ?evil? found in certain characters of Hamlet.

King Claudius, young Hamlet?s uncle, is ?[t]he serpent [who] did sting thy father?s life [and n]ow wears his crown?; he corrupts the people who should mean the most to him (I. iiiii. 40-41). Claudius totally deprives his family of life, love, and protection that are his responsibility to maintain. Shakespeare compares him to a snake not only because the rumor was passed that a snakebite was the true reason why King Hamlet died, but snakes were considered harrowers of evil spirits for centuries before Shakespeare even began writing plays. Snakes can still be symbols of corruption even now; all one needs to truly believe this assumption is to outrightly fear them.

King Hamlet?s ghost, upon revisiting his son to warn him of King Claudius? fallacies, dubbed him an ?incestuous, adulterate beast? (I. iiiii. 43); he was ?traitorous? to the time-honored crown of Denmark (I. iiiii. 44). Incest and adultery, especially in the Bible, are gross and ungodly sins; anything deemed sinful should, by any reference, be automatically considered evil- with no exceptions. King Claudius married his deceased brother?s wife and committed these horrendous sins; King Hamlet openly rebukes him with these metaphors as he converses with his son. Betrayal was the very act that put Jesus Christ on the cross. Judas, the man who committed this sin, was so emotionally torn at his wrongdoing that he hung himself. Just as Judas acted in iniquity toward Jesus in becoming a traitor, so did Claudius as he murdered his brother for his crown and his wife.

Through a number of young Hamlet?s speeches, Shakespeare uses metaphors that largely affect the physical senses. During a period of ponderous thought after speaking with his uncle and mother, Hamlet quivers in disgust as he exclaims, ?O that this too too sullied flesh would melt, [t]haw, and resolve itself into a dew!? (I. ii. 129-130). Evil to him is so defiled that he wishes himself to rot in order to escape the vile lust that has overcome his family. Corruption, in thought and deed, overwhelms the reader?s mind and makes it so hateful that a deeply-etched rancid feeling stays forever in one?s gut upon witnessing the effect of evil on Hamlet?s mind. In paralleling evil with logic so that man can have a physical sense of it, Shakespeare creates an atmosphere of ?things rank and gross in nature?- the very definition of corruption (I. ii. 136). This ?Elizabethan period soap opera?, if viewed by television watchers of the 1990?s, would still reek of putrid morals and would indelibly represent a socially unacceptable family and standards.

Throughout Hamlet, Shakespeare uses many linguistic expressions to portray evil in his characters in more ways than one. His techniques range from directly displaying evil in the actions of King Claudius to using vocal imagery in the afterthoughts and dialogue of young Hamlet. Nonetheless, evil is dreary, unclean, and defiled, and it comes in several different forms. Theoretically, evil determines destiny; those who succumb to it are fated to a future of repulsive disposition, whether a member of royalty or not. Evil will be overcome as Hamlet plans his next move on his much-hated uncle; no matter what the outcome may be, justice in favor of the righteous is intended to be served.


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