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William Shakespeare and Hamlet

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The theme of corruption and decay in the Denmark society is extensively discussed in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600–1601). The author uses the motif of illnesses in most of the scenes to illustrate the form and system of corruption developed in the Denmark society. The author’s employment of the images such as ulcers, apoplexy, pleurisy, subculture madness, war, espionage, murder, prostitution and body pustules to support the decaying and dying of the Denmark society. Hamlet believes that the air he breathes is a filthy and pestilent series of vapor wondering in the atmosphere. Hamlet, the heir to the throne, is an example of a deeply depressed sufferer that presents him a fit of mania in this Denmark society till very late in the play. At the end of the drama, Hamlet decays with a contaminated will, incapable of considering the necessary response to avenging the king’s death and save the society.

In the play, everything connects ranging from benefits associated with coming from the royal family to the well-being of the public as a body. At the beginning of the play various scenes have explored the sense of nervousness and disquiet as well as fear surrounding the shift of power and authority from one leader to the other. Shakespeare describes Denmark as a physical figure made sick by the ethical corruption of Claudius and Gertrude (Gürcü, 2016). King Claudius says “Pluck them asunder” [Act V: Scene I] – this is an attribute of poor leadership. The appearance of the ghost is an indication of a supernatural omen that the Denmark society is decaying and slowly dying from the poor leadership. Shakespeare portrays the dead King Hamlet as one of the robust and forthright leaders. Under the deceased King’s direction, Denmark society was in good health condition and under the morally upright governance that witnessed great developments. However, Claudius is a corrupt leader and politician whose administration has morally corrupted and compromised the system and state in Denmark.

Claudius leadership is marked by corruption aimed at satisfying his political ambitions and enthusiasm. The political state of Denmark society is worsening so quickly. Often the loss of a leader will always throw any country into a state of political confusion and mayhem. Even though there is a peaceful political power shift in the country from Helmet’s to Claudius’ reign, the nation is still under uproar brought by confusion amidst the subjects. The new leader takes the responsibility of ruling the kingdom, heightening the smooth transition of power to the next reign.

However, when the new king is acting capriciously as per the standards set by the father, the subjects feel that something is amiss. Marcellus says that something has decayed in the country of Denmark, he is so sure of the bad state that the current regime has put the society into. His words refer to the evils that the government of Hamlet and the current political unrest Denmark as a country is going through. Therefore, the political sustenance of the country has remained undeviatingly connected to the psychological state of Hamlet on the play. At the end of the drama, an upright leader, Fortinbras, says: “For me, with grief I hold my fortune: I have some rights of memory in this kingdom” [Act V: Scene II] – he ascends to power which is an indication that Denmark will regain its strength and power in the political mileage.


In summary, Shakespeare clearly brings the rotten state of the Denmark society, a problem brought by the Claudius’ reign. Corruption is the major cause of society decay and death which has significantly affected the well-being of most societies in the 21st century.


Gürcü, Ö. Ö. (2016). The Interaction of Fate and Free Will in Shakespeare's Hamlet. ESSE Messenger, 25(2), 42-51.

Shakespeare, W., In Thompson, A., & In Taylor, N. (2006). Hamlet. London: Arden Shakespeare.

July 24, 2021




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