Disease Imagery and Hamlet

Disease Imagery and Hamlet
Imagery is used by writers to describe the setting of a piece of work. Not only does this imagery give more description, but also gives a philosophical twist to the interpretation of the piece of work. William Shakespeare uses imagery throughout his works, particularly in the play Hamlet. In the play Hamlet, Shakespeare uses disease imagery to describe the leadership of Denmark, and how corruption has infected the kingdom. Similarly, Shakespeare compares how an untreated infection can spread to the ones least expected to be infected. Firstly, the corrupt nature of the authoritarian rule of Denmark is compared to the infestation of a parasite in a garden. In the play Hamlet, Hamlet sees Claudius (the king) as the parasite, since he committed crimes such as murder to become king (i.e. Claudius poisoned his brother Hamlet Sr. who was the former king). Hamlet feels as though Claudius is the weed of a garden, which needs to be removed. Hamlet shows this when he says ? Tis an unweeded garden That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature Posses it merely.? ( Hamlet, Shakespeare, 1992, 1.2, 139) This remark shows how Shakespeare uses disease imagery to describe the unscrupulousness of the leadership of Denmark. 1 2 Secondly, in a number of his works, Shakespeare uses ghosts as a symbol of disease. In the play Hamlet, the ghost of Hamlet Sr. appears, which brings about worry in the kingdom. This worry is shown when Marcellus says ? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.? (Hamlet, Shakespeare, 1992, 1.4, 100) after the ghost appears from the watch. Furthermore, in the play Macbeth, the ghost of Banquo taunts Macbeth, which ultimately brings about fear in the audience. In other words, the ghost is like a symptom from a disease, and if not detected and destroyed, the disease could be fatal. In Hamlet?s case the disease is Claudius. The overall affect of the ghost, produces an eerie feeling within the play, and enhances the disease imagery. Thirdly, Shakespeare uses the spread of a disease in comparison, to the spread of corruption within Claudius?s kingdom. Claudius is like a disease, if not stopped, it will eventually take over everything and everyone in its path. Claudius manipulated many of his servants to turn against their friends. An example of this manipulation, is when Claudius orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to deceive Hamlet into thinking they are his friends. The real motive for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to pretend to be Hamlet?s friends, is to discover Hamlet?s plan to avenge his fathers death. The disease of greed, overpowered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and they traded their true friendship with Hamlet, for the temporary treasures from the king. This betrayal of friendship is shown when Guildenstern tries to find out what Hamlet?s ambitions are, when Guildenstern says ? Which dreams, indeed, are ambition, for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.? (Hamlet, Shakespeare, 1992, 2.2, 276-279). Shakespeare has 3 shown how one corrupt individual can lead other people astray. The manipulation of the two courtiers is an example of how Claudius?s infected mind has poisoned two other individuals. In conclusion, Shakespeare conveys a strong sense of disease imagery in the play Hamlet. Not only is Claudius the cause of corruption in Denmark, but he also causes others to follow him. Similarly, Shakespeare also used a ghost to enhance the effect of the disease imagery. Situations faced by people, involve making choices of following the right or wrong way, and it is up to each of us to choose the right way. In life there are the weeds, weed killers, flowers and fertilizers.

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