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Symbols in Hamlet
Transcript of Symbols in Hamlet
In Shakespeare's Hamlet, symbolism is used to offer an enhanced and hidden meaning of certain parts in the text.
The use of symbolism can be seen in Shakespeare's Hamlet through the use of poison, Hamlet's costume changes, Ophelia's flowers, the ghost and Yorick's skull, which serves to show that death is inevitable. Poison has a crucial role in the play Hamlet.
Poison is a symbol of disloyalty, corruption, dishonesty, death and vengeance.
A ghost of Old Hamlet tells Hamlet how King Claudius killed him. Old Hamlet says,
“…Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leperous distilment...” (I.v.61-64). In Act 4, Scene 5, Ophelia appears to have gone mad after the death of her father
Ophelia carries many different types of flowers and begins to give certain flowers to different people.
First, she gives rosemary to Polonius. She also gives Polonius the pansies.
Though, these two flowers could be for Hamlet. Ophelia may have Hamlet in mind when she says,
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts” (IV.v.173-175).
Ophelia goes mad as she says,
“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me, we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays: O, you must wear your rue with a difference, there’s a daisy: I would give you some violets, but they wither’d all when my father died, they say a’made a good end” (IV.v.178-183).
Ophelia gives fennel and columbines to Gertrude.
Ophelia gives Claudius a rue.
Ophelia gives the daisies to Gertrude and Claudius.
Lastly, Ophelia gives the violets to herself. Ghost are a common element in revenge tragedies in Shakespearian plays
The Ghost is another key element to prove the theme of death since it is an immortal figure.
The Ghosts' appearance to Hamlet sets the revenge plot into action.
Before the Ghost tells Hamlet who killed him, he tells Hamlet to take revenge on his murderer. Hamlet replies
"Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge." (1.5.29-31)
As one can see, Hamlet's insanity takes the Ghosts side and is ready to take vengeance.
Charles Boyce proves that the Ghost plays a crucial role in this play,
"The Ghost pushes Hamlet to face the trauma of his father's murder and his mother's acceptance of the murderer. It keeps his anguish sharp. However, the Ghost is absent at the end of the drama. It has represented the emotional demands of Hamlet's grief and despair; when Act 5 offers the play's reconciliation of good and evil, the Ghost has no further function" (Boyce). Yorick's skull in Act 5, Scene 1 represents the afterlife and theme of death.
Hamlet's character develops through this symbol.
Hamlet questions how the jester Yorick can be in the same place as Alexander the Great when he says,
“as thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to dust, the dust is earth, of earth we make loam , and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel” (V.i.209-213)
Yorick's skull is a physical symbol of the inevitability of death.
Hamlet literally ages in this scene.
Yorick's skull reminds Hamlet of Ophelia's death.
Ellen Rosenberg says in Death in Hamlet,
" The human condition, however—that is, the idea that all who live must eventually yield to death—encompasses larger questions than those posed by the quest for vengeance." As Ellen Rosenberg comments in "Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature", "In Hamlet, the theme of death goes hand-in-glove with the play's objective of bringing retribution to those who do evil" (Rosenberg) The audience learns early on in the play that Hamlet wears all black to mourn his father's death, which seems to irritate Gertrude.
Hamlet seems to be the only one in the royal court who is mourning the king's death.
Hamlet gets very offended when his mother comments on his clothing. Gertrude says,
"Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not forever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust.
Thou know'st 'tis common. All that lives must die.
Passing through nature to eternity." (1.2.68-73)
Hamlet changes as Ophelia says,
" My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,
Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced;
No hat upon his head; his stockings foul'd,
Ungarter'd, and down-gyved to his ancle;
Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;
And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors,--he comes before me." (2.1.1)
Hamlet's costume changes to a pale garment Ophelia's description makes Hamlet appear very much like a ghost. Conclusion Simpsons: The Count of Monte Fatso http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/60097/detail/ Boyce, Charles. "Ghost." Critical Companion to William Shakespeare: A Literary Reference to
His Life and Work. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2005. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. 5 December 2012. <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= ffazshak0819&SingleRecord=True>
Rosenberg, Ellen. "Death in Hamlet." Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature. New York: Infobase
Publishing, 2011. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. 5 December 2012. <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= ETL0978&SingleRecord=True>
Russell, Paul March. "Symbolism." Facts On File Companion to the British Short Story. New
York: Facts On file, Inc. 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. 5 December 2012. <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CBSS462&SingleRecord=True> Works Cited Symbolism is a crucial component in the play Hamlet because it develops the theme of death through various symbols. Poison proves the theme of death because many of the characters die from it. Hamlet's costume changes creates the theme of death because he continues to wear black clothes till he goes mad. Ophelia's flowers demonstrate the theme of death through the handing out of symbolic flowers after her father past away. The Ghost shows the theme of death because of his immortal state of being and his revolution of the play. Yoricks skull develops the theme of death because it is the first time Hamlet sees death physically and it changes Hamlet's views on death. In conclusion, Hamlet effectively uses symbolism throughout the play to provide an exciting plot, enhanced character personalities, and an overall more interesting theme.