What is the dramatic importance of corruption and disease in Hamlet?

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What is the dramatic importance of corruption and disease in Hamlet?

There are many factors, which influenced Shakespeare to write tragedies such as Hamlet.  Many themes suffuse the play of Hamlet but the most important which shall be concentrated on is that of disease and corruption.  There is use of powerful imagery that is linked with the theme of disease and corruption as they are continually repeated throughout the play to make a point stand out to the audience. The play would have been immediately accessible to a Shakespearean audience because of this plot content.  During this time there was a belief in the divine right of Kings where the king of that era believed he had the right to the throne.  Furthermore, the mood of the time played a great part influencing the themes of the play.

Corruption is first introduced by Claudius and eventually seeps outwards infecting the rest of the characters in the play. (Excluding Hamlet as he is perceptive to the corruption of others and does not let himself be corrupted).  Claudius corrupts Old Hamlet by killing him and Old Hamlet symbolises the nation of Denmark, so it is slowly being corrupted and diseased, his decaying body represents this ‘Let not the royal bed of Denmark be…damned incest.’ He wants all he has worked for not to be ruined by his brother. 

During Act 1 Scene 3 (the Advice Scene), Polonius acts as a perfect father towards Laertes, ‘Thou friends thou hast…grapple them to thy soul.’  Polonius’ advice here is that the friends Laertes has, he should grasp them close to his body.  His behaviour is of a great father figure but in the following Act (2.1) it can be contrasted when he sends Reynaldo to spy on Laertes as he leaves for France, this is important as he corrupts Reynaldo to spy on his own son. ‘By indirections, find directions out.’  He has to go indirectly to find out what Laertes engages with at France.

The name Reynaldo is old slang terminology for fox.  Reynaldo is a characternym and implies someone who is wily and sly.  ‘Reynaldo and the fox’ was a popular medieval story and then after the name Reynaldo has always been in connection with the word fox.  

By being a good father he looks out for the best interest of his children, Ophelia is a good example, as Polonius does not want to see her with Hamlet.

I will not…have you so slander any moment leisure as to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.’

He commands her to do so as he says ‘Look to ’t, I charge you.’

        In Act 2 Scene 1, Ophelia speaks to Polonius after Hamlet entered her room looking ‘pale as hi shirt’ and dressed with ‘no hat upon his head,’ these are the first signs of his assumed madness.

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She continues to say he examined her face for a short period of time and said nothing with a ‘piteous and profound sigh’ then left.  Polonius believes that Hamlet has gone mad because of his love for Ophelia, ‘This is the very ecstasy of love’ the word ‘ecstasy’ means madness.  Hamlet has chosen not to talk to Ophelia as his perception sees that she has been corrupted.  The play contains the theme of real madness (Ophelia) and assumed madness (Hamlet where he seems to be mad).  Ophelia inherits this madness after the death of her father, she begins to ‘sing’ but when she speaks ...

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