The tragedy “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare is a timeless classic that stays in question of the literary analysis despite being written many centuries ago.
The tragedy touches the topics of treason, revenge, moral dilemma, love, and power. It is a psychologically complex portrait of the age and ever-current question of moral values and intended purpose of the human life. Among the questions touched in the tragedy, the ubiquitous status goes to the issue of the corruption that is pictured on a different scale and interpreted differently by the characters. In the tragedy, corruption touches the antagonist Claudius, the protagonist Hamlet, and is even spread to the entire society of the Danish kingdom, which makes it one of the main and penetrating topics in the piece. The first thing to mention is the point that even the purest characters of the tragedy cannot avoid corruption.
The most complicated transition to corruption is exemplified by the protagonist. His father is cruelly killed by his own brother, and the prince has to choose between the violent revenge and forgiving the neighbor. The problem is that Claudius is initially corrupted, thus, for Hamlet, choosing the violent revenge means becoming similar to his uncle. Yet, he cannot forgive the death of his father.
Hamlet’s signature inquisition “To be, or not to be- that is the question” (3.1.1749) relates to the issue of morals. He tries to decide what would be more depraved: allowing Claudius to get away with the murder or vigilante justice. The image of Claudius is more complicated and toxic that it can appear. The reign of Claudius is viewed as a prophecy of a decay for the entire kingdom because his style of leadership is the same as a means of getting the throne.
The analogy that applies to the reign is the statement that a fish rots from the head, which means that the kingdom is doomed to the corruption with such head as Claudius. His management style is exemplified in the conspiracy with his loyal counselor Polonius, the person that does all the dirty work in for the new king. He spies, eavesdrops, and reports everything to Claudius. The doom of the kingdom is worded by Marcellus with his “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (1.4.728). Thus, the reigning style of the latter is based on conspiracy and intrigues, the categories of rotten that can symbolically never lead to prosperity.
Additionally, the image of Claudius is ironically associated with the agent of corruption by comparison with the Sun: when Hamlet is asked what is wrong with him, he responds “Not so, my lord. I am too much I’ th’ sun” (1.2.
269). The Sun and its heat are known as the agent of the physical corruption of the dead body, which hints that the reign of Claudius accelerated the decay of all the people beyond him, just as the sun accelerates rotting of a dead fish.To conclude everything mentioned above, corruption and depravity are the pervasive themes in Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet.” It is presented as something unavoidable for the kingdom under the reign of Claudius, the concentration of depravity and fraud. He serves the source of corruption for the country in literal comparison with the corruption of a lifeless body. Despite being “The Sun,” he only heats up the rotting remains of justice and purity of the people of the Danish kingdom.
Even the purest people turn out to resort to his methods in the attempt to regain justice.