January 15, 1997
Per 6 Adv. Sr. English
Hamlet: A Tool of a Higher Power
Throughout Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it seems that a higher spiritual power is influencing the events taking place in the state of Denmark. A ghost of the recently deceased King Hamlet appears to Young Hamlet telling him of his “most foul and most unnatural murder” (1.5.30). This begins a chain of events leading up to the martyrdom of Hamlet, and the spiritual cleansing of the throne of Denmark.
Firstly, Hamlet sees the evil and contemptible state of life in Denmark. Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother and the Queen of Denmark, marries his Uncle soon after the death of his father. “. . .The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables” (1.2.189-90). Depressed, and most likely confused, Hamlet speaks his first soliloquy in the play, else named ‘the dram of evil’ speech,
“. . . Frailty, thy name is woman!?
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father’s body
Like Niobe, all tears?why she, even she
married with my uncle . . .
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it can not come to good.”
In addition, Hamlet sees the corruption in Denmark when the ghost of his recently deceased father appears to him. The ghost claims that he is “doomed to walk a certain term to walk the night / And for the day confined to fast in fires” (1.5.15-16). Also, the spirit explains how Claudius murdered him by pouring the ‘cursed juices of Hebenon’ in the porches of his ears. Hamlet is encouraged further by the spirit to take revenge upon his father’s death.
Because Hamlet is a philosopher and a dreamer, illustrated in his famous ‘To be or not to be’ speech (3.1.64-98), he needs additional proof before he takes his revenge on Claudius. To prove this, Hamlet has the players act out a scene that was close to the ghost’s story about the death of King Hamlet. Claudius reacts to this scene by pretending to be ill, and later Hamlet sees him in the chapel confessing his sins through prayer. He does not kill Claudius at this point because he has purged his soul of his sins, and will go to heaven, Hamlet would rather kill him when
“he is drunk asleep; or in his rage;
Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed;
At gaming, swearing, or about some act
That has no relish if salvation in’t-
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
And that his soul be damned and black
as Hell, whereto it goes.”
Now that Hamlet knows that the ghost’s story is true, he must aggressively seek his revenge. He speaks to his mother of this treachery, and at the same time, kills Polonius. Meanwhile, Polonius’ son, Laertes, comes back to avenge his father’s death, and Claudius plans the fatal duel between the two. Laertes poisons the edge of his sword so that if he merely scratches Hamlet, it will mean certain death; and after a few rounds, Hamlet receives his fatal wound.
The final stage of this pattern, is the return to the natural, spiritually clean order of things. In the middle of the sword fight, the Queen dies from drinking Hamlet’s poisoned drink, and when Hamlet realized he is not going to live to see another day, he kills the King, thus taking his revenge. Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway, takes over the throne, while Horatio (Hamlet’s one true friend) tells the story of the awful, evil deeds done in the state of Denmark.
Furthermore, the deaths of the nobility of Denmark act as a sort of ’spiritual cleansing’, meaning that all the wrong-doing had been revenged and paid for by the deeds at the end of the play. All the evil, and the foul doings of Denmark had been absolved by the deaths of the main characters. Hamlet is also considered a martyr because he was a good person who died, so that he could, in essence, cause the purification that returned the natural order of things in the state of Denmark.