Hamlet and The Mystery of Death
A Look at a Prince Obsessed with Death
From the beginning of the play Hamlet has a juvenile fascination with Death. Over the course of the play Hamlet considers death from many perspectives. He ponders with both the spiritual aftermath of death and the physical reminders of it. Death is tied closely to themes of spirituality, truth and uncertainty.
Since death is ultimately both the cause and consequence of revenge it’s tied to the theme of revenge and justice. The murder of The King by Claudius initiates Hamlets revenge and justice and the death of Laertes, Hamlet, Claudius and hamlets mother is also the consequence of Hamlets revenge.
The question of his own death plagues Hamlet as he repeatedly contemplates whether or not suicide is a morally sincere action. His grief and desolation is so much that he frequently longs for death to end his suffering in hell. The point behind this soliloquy is to reason out whether the unknown beyond death is easier to bear than life. He explores the idea of consequences as he contemplates suicide as a means to end his “Sea of trouble”.
Hamlet muses on the comparison of the pain of life and the fear of the uncertainty of death. He is unsure on what death will bring and fears the damnation of suicide. He speculates that the experience of death might be worse than life. He defines death as ‘undiscover’d country’ from which ‘no traveler returns’ and acknowledges that everyone will face death at some point and that suicide is a one way ticket.
Unlike any other place in the play, the graveyard is a place where Hamlet is allowed to remember the dead. The gravedigger was hired the same day Hamlet was born and his father fought Fortinbras which symbolizes Hamlets inheritance as a grave. Yorick was the late king’s jester with whom Hamlet was very close as a child. In the height of his obsession with death he is greatly affected by the skull as it brings back memories of a seemingly happy childhood thus signifying the loss of happiness and naivety.
He literally stares death in the face while holding the skull and realizes that no matter who you are or what you do, we are all brought to the same level in death. Yorick’s skull and its many symbols emphasize the deaths of Hamlets father, Polonius ad Ophelia, thus emphasizes the pitiful state that hamlet has been reduced to. The skull encourages Hamlet's thoughts of suicide and revenge.
The ghosts repeated appearance at the castle suggests that Claudius was wrong in saying that the “whole Kingdom” moved on after the death of the king. He symbolizes Hamlets disinterest in forgetting his father’s death and moving on like everyone tells him to. It represents a common fear of being forgotten after death that we each contemplate. It also signifies how Hamlet is ‘Haunted’ with the struggle to come to terms with the fact that everyone dies.
Hamlet is a play filled with death and after the death of his father Hamlet is consumed with questions of mortality, suicide and the afterlife. Death is represented by many symbols such as the ghost, The graveyard and Yoricks skull. His questions of death are epitomized in the quote: “… To die, to sleep—
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep—”