Theme of Death and Mortality in Hamlet
Comment on the theme of death and mortality in Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
Death and Morality in Hamlet
The theme of death and mortality is a prominent and complex one in William Shakespeare‘s tragedy, Hamlet. The play is filled with discussions of death, both literal and figurative, and explores the ways in which people grapple with the inevitability of their own mortality. In this essay, we will explore the various ways in which the theme of death is explored in Hamlet, including the symbolism of the graveyard, the motif of the skull, and the significance of death as a means of achieving justice.
One of the most striking symbols of death in Hamlet is the graveyard scene in Act 5. Here, Hamlet contemplates the inevitability of death and the fleeting nature of human life as he surveys the skulls and bones that surround him. He muses on the idea that even great men like Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great are reduced to mere dust in death, and that all of our achievements in life are ultimately meaningless in the face of our mortality. This scene serves as a powerful reminder of the transience of life and the importance of living in the present moment.
Another important symbol of death in the play is the motif of the skull. The famous line “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio” is a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the inevitability of death. The skull of Yorick, a jester that Hamlet knew in childhood, serves as a powerful symbol of mortality and the fleeting nature of human existence. The skull also serves as a reminder of the transience of power and the fallibility of those who wield it, as even the most powerful kings and rulers are reduced to dust in death.
Death also serves as a means of achieving justice in Hamlet. The play is filled with instances of revenge and retribution, as characters seek to avenge the wrongs that have been done to them. Hamlet himself seeks revenge against his father’s murderer, Claudius, and ultimately achieves justice through his own death. The final scene of the play, in which Hamlet and several other characters are killed, serves as a reminder of the destructive power of revenge and the tragic consequences that can result from a desire for vengeance.
The theme of death in Hamlet is also closely tied to the idea of existentialism, which emphasizes the individual’s freedom and responsibility in creating their own meaning in life. Hamlet grapples with this idea throughout the play, as he struggles to find a sense of purpose and meaning in the face of his own mortality. He questions the value of life and the purpose of existence, ultimately concluding that “to be or not to be” is the fundamental question that each person must answer for themselves.
Critics have noted the importance of the theme of death in Hamlet and its broader significance within Shakespeare’s works. For example, literary critic Harold Bloom argues that “death is the only subject of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and the best of them deal with the problem of dying” (Bloom 40). Bloom sees death as a universal theme that is explored in various ways throughout Shakespeare’s plays, and notes that Hamlet is particularly effective in its portrayal of the human struggle with mortality.
In conclusion, the theme of death and mortality is a complex and multifaceted one in Hamlet. The play explores the ways in which people grapple with their own mortality, and the various symbols and motifs of death serve to reinforce the idea that life is fleeting and transitory. Death also serves as a means of achieving justice and revenge, but ultimately leads to tragic consequences. The theme of death in Hamlet is closely tied to the idea of existentialism and the search for meaning in life, and is a significant and enduring aspect of Shakespeare’s work.
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Written by Koushik Kumar Kundu
Koushik Kumar Kundu was among the toppers when he completed his Masters from Vidyasagar University after completing his Bachelors degree with Honours in English Literature from The University of Burdwan. He also completed B.Ed from the University of Burdwan.
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