Much is Rotten in the of Denmark beyond just the Murder of the old King Shakespeare’s play titled Hamlet has received attention from many literary scholars. The play focuses on the efforts of Hamlet, the prince to avenge his father’s death. The death of his father results from poisoning by his brother Claudius. The king’s ghost refuses to rest in peace, and orders Hamlet to avenge his death. Claudius marries Gertrude after the death of the king. The plot of the play reveals many acts of corruption, making this one of the outstanding themes. This becomes evident when Marcellus says, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (1.4.90). This paper will highlight some cases of corruption as exhibited by Shakespeare in the play.
In the first scene of the play, the reader becomes familiar with the death of King Hamlet. After his death, his ghost appears to guards and eventually to Hamlet his son. He did not die a natural death, but his brother Claudius plotted his death. The king’s ghost reveals that his brother used a poisonous drink to introduce disease in the king, which eventually leads to his death (Stein 117). The reason why Claudius chooses to kill his brother is because he wants to be the next in line to the throne. He has calculated his moves and notes that killing the king would make him the successor, and would allow him to marry the queen. This is a heinous act of corruption, introduced in the first part of the play (Kumamoto 50). Evidently, the jealousy of Claudius concerning the throne serves as a motivating factor for his actions. When the king’s ghost appears, he confirms that it is Claudius, who killed him when he said, “Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole/ With juice of cursed hebona in a vial/ And in the porches of my ears did pour/ The leperous distilment” (1.5.66-69). The above quote confirms that Claudius committed murder, which is a high level of corruption with the intention of taking over the throne.
After Hamlet receives the revelation from his dead father, the desire for revenge overwhelms him. The need for vengeance takes over Hamlet’s life, and motivates him to commit murder as well. His intention is to kill Claudius. However, he mistakenly kills Polonius, who has been eavesdropping while Hamlet is talking to Queen Gertrude. The fact that Hamlet lets his anger and desire to revenge hinder his ability to think makes him commit immoral acts by killing an innocent man. This is a form of moral corruption, which lacks any form of justification (Kumamoto 58).
King Claudius also acts immorally and in a corrupt manner by plotting out Hamlet’s death using Hamlet’s trusted friends. The king sought to use them in an effort to get rid of Hamlet. He sends a note with them to deliver to the king of England instructing him to kill Hamlet. This was a plot of corruption because Claudius sought to protect his interests by getting rid of Hamlet. Fortunately, Hamlet discovers the plot and his friend who had betrayed him dies instead.
In the climax of events in the plot, when Laertes learns about the death of his father and sister, he returns to Denmark to seek revenge. Coincidentally, Hamlet returns as well. Claudius and Laertes plan a party and arrange for a duel fight between Hamlet and Laertes. However, the two of them had their intentions of killing Hamlet. Laertes highlighted that he would poison his sword during the duel when he said, “And for that purpose I’ll anoint my sword/ I bought an unction of a mountebank/ So mortal, that but dip a knife in it/ Where it draws blood, no cataplasm so rare” (4.7.140-143). Laertes does exactly this prior to the duel. On the other hand, Claudius prepares a poisoned drink for Hamlet, who refused to take it. A tragic event occurs when Queen Gertrude drinks the poison and dies. This makes Hamlet realize that Claudius had poisoned the drink. He then compels Claudius to take the remaining drink. This leads to his death as well (Kumamoto 63). During the duel, both Hamlet and Laertes wound themselves using the poisoned sword and they are dying when the play is ending.
Role of the Corruption Instances in the Play
As highlighted above, the play begins with an outright depiction of crime in Denmark. The first scene reveals to the audience that Claudius is responsible for the death of Hamlet’s father. The rest of the plot emerges from the heinous act committed by Claudius. Therefore, the instances of corruption enhance the plot in a central way. Moreover, the theme serves to enhance the characters. For example, when Hamlet gets to hear of what his uncle did, he loses his mind because he realizes that Denmark is in the control of an undeserving corrupt uncle. He exhibits his determination that he has to play a critical role in saving his country from the corruption of his uncle. Hamlet’s decisions after this scene focus on saving Denmark from the corrupt nature of his uncle. In addition, other characters in the play emerge as the playwright develops the theme of corruption, making it of central importance in the play.
Evidently, Shakespeare’s play reveals how kingdoms engage in corrupt and immoral acts because of their desire for power. The desire for power drives Claudius to kill his brother and marry the queen. Hamlet loses his senses after realizing what Claudius had done. He then focuses on revenge and he commits an act of corruption by killing Polonius. The climax of the play reveals different plots of killing Hamlet, but which end up causing the deaths of four people. Fortunately, their death marks the end of the corrupt era and Denmark is ready for a new regime.
Kumamoto, Chikako D. “Gertrude, Ophelia, Ghost: Hamlets Revenge And The Abject.” Journal of The Wooden O Symposium 6. (2006): 48-64. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.
Shakespeare, William, et al. Hamlet [Electronic Resource] Venice : L.A. Theatre Works, 2012., 2012.
Stein, Suzanne. “Shakespeares Hamlet.” Explicator 67.2 (2009): 117. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.