William Shakespeare depicts the rotting society as the protagonist, Hamlet, illustrating the corrupt situation in current Denmark. Hamlet perceives that Denmark was a health state where everything was in order. The use of imagery and symbolism to personify the social, economic, and political disorders woven as the principal themes of disease leading to the death of the harmonious order. The manifestation of immorality, drunkenness, war, murder, pleurisy, apoplexy, adultery, revenge, and espionage distort the healthy state of the community into communicable diseases placing Denmark on its deathbed. Touchable evidence of infection is shown with the protagonist, Hamlet, posing insane characteristic and struggling with drinking issues as a symbolic representation of social disorder in the community. To illustrate the impact of the rot in the society, Hamlet mentions that the air he breathes is a filthy and fatal gathering of vapor. This paper will explore the use of imagery and symbolism of decaying society to show the slip of Denmark from its known glory into the current corrupt state to what Shakespeare terms as losing its health to discord to disease.
In the entire narrative uses patterns of symbolism and imagery to show the decaying morals and norms of the society. For instance, the application of the imaging of disease in Hamlet to show the rot of Denmark, he states that "....something is rotten in the state of Denmark... (90)" in this statement, Hamlet manifests his idea of the once healthy state of Denmark but, in recent days the glory is decay in sickness with and imagery comparison to rotting apples whose glory fades when worms infest it. Further, to show the imagery of disease, Hamlet says: ...my body and the world are contaminated" to show the change in the soundness of the body's health just like the manifestation of infectious bacteria or virus contaminating the order and health state. In the same way, Hamlet uses imagery and symbolism to show the current state of the world they were living in after contamination with disease-causing elements. Again, Hamlet shows the stress of life by saying: "...But, to the quick o' the ulcer..." (125). the metaphor of ulcer shows the accumulated life issues that have overtime wounded the lives of the Danish people.
Shakespeare vigorously uses the patterns of fakeness or acting imagery to achieve the narrative's conspiracy on the hypocrisy of the people. The text brings a comparison of two people with sane pretense. Hamlet acts insane throughout the plot though he poses like a prince to the people he wants to perceive his normal state. However, he recognizes the same of Ophelia though her country is genuine. False acting goes on in the narration to show the hypocritical intent of murder. Hamlet holds a grudge against his father's killer and pretends to be insane as he plots to perpetrate revenge. For instance, Hamlet states that: "...the painting of the sorrow, a face without a heart..." in this recount Hamlet shows the elements of acting that decay the morals of the society, when he shows how people pretend to be in grief through the sorrow, is not genuinely felt in the heart. Further, "...Polonius lectures Ophelia about how young men can proclaim true love when they're only acting to get what they want at the moment..." this shows hypocrisy when people in the morally decaying society to achieve their selfish ends when they pretend to be in love. Again Hamlet says that "....beauty tends to transform honesty and chastity into a prostitute...." Hamlet was trying to demonstrate that the fakeness of the conduct of prostitute uses physical beauty to show entice of their potential prey in persuasive honesty and provocation.
To depict the elements of imagery as a pattern of discord, Shakespeare exploits the lack of harmony in the lives of the people in Denmark. The principle recognition of life order shows the faith and trust in the divine power and the function of God in the presence of the people to save them from misfortune and suffering. In the application of discord in the narration shows the signs of chaotic, murder and incest. For instance,:...Ophelia laments that Hamlet, in his madness, has his faculties all in disharmony, like bells ringing out of tune and clashing discordantly..." With the use of imagery to show the discord of the bitterness of life that frustrates Hamlet to seek refuge in insanity. Also, Hamlet believes that ".... he has been ordained by heaven to be its righter and punisher, but he accepts that this will not mean that he is exempt from suffering for wrongs..." to show he believes of a spiritual and divine role in the lives of the people as the primary source of reassurance. Finally, in the condemnation of the murderous act of killing his father, Hamlet says "....The Ghost states and then repeats that his murder by Claudius was not only foul but also "strange and unnatural." Of course, a ghost is already an unnatural thing, and Hamlet immediately suspected, earlier, that its appearance linked to some violent, evil act..."
Crystal, David, & Ben Crystal, The Shakespeare Miscellany. New York, 2005
Kermode, Frank. Shakespeare's Language. Penguin: London 2000.
Shakespeare, W.. Hamlet. In T. J. Spencer (Ed.), The new Penguin Shakespeare. London, England: Penguin Books, 1996.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) playwright and poet
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