Hamlet and its amazing corruption. What is rotten in the state of Denmark?


Shakespeare’s revenge tragedy, Hamlet, explores how the experience of corruption can have major negative implications on social structure and as well as an individual’s mental well-being. classic

The Corruption inside the Castle

First of all, we will look at the political corruption that is going on inside the castle. We learn in the first act that not only did Hamlet`s uncle, Claudius, marry his brother’s wife, which was considered incestuous by the Christian Church, but he also took Hamlet`s birthright as heir to the throne after his father died. By taking advantage of young Hamlet’s grief and depression, and the queen’s favour, he was able to win the necessary votes to become king. This invokes the idea of the Great Chain of Being, which is now spoilt.

The Great Chain of Being 

The Great Chain of Being is an Elizabethan concept, where society’s structure mimics one of a pyramid with its King at the very top. This means that if something bad happens to the King or if the king is corrupt it will filter down through the nobles, down through the merchants, and down through the peasants until all of society suffers for it. Hamlet

As the story progresses, we keep discovering the true nature of King Claudius, not only as a villain who murdered his own brother but also as a corrupt politician. The second scene of the play makes it clear that it is the weak and corrupt condition of Denmark under Claudius that affords occasion for the warlike activities of Fortinbras.

What exactly is being corrupted? Hamlet

“Shall in the general censure take corruption/From that particular fault.” (I. iv.)

The inevitable implication, of course, is that the whole state of Denmark has been corrupted by the king’s bad habits and vicious nature, until

“The dram of eale,/Doth all the noble substance of a doubt/To his own scandal.” (I. iv.)

Marcellus begins the theme by describing the setting as corrupt:

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (I. iv.)

When Marcellus says the famous line, he is speaking to a broadly-held societal superstition. In the middle ages, it was believed that the prosperity of a country was in direct connection to the legitimacy of its king.

“This bodes some strange eruption to our state” (I. i.)

The Ghost and its relations to Hamlet and the state affairs

Horatio knows nothing of the murder and yet he thinks the ghost has to do with the state`s affairs. We are faced with 3 possibilities for his presence: He may want something done; he may wish to share his hoarded treasure, or he may want to disclose information about the country’s fate. Taken in connection with what he has just said of the impending danger from young Fortinbras, it seems to indicate a feeling that all is not well with Denmark.

The Atmosphere around Hamlet

Another factor to consider is the atmosphere of death and poison which continues to linger inside the castle as time passes by. This is caused by Hamlet’s inability to let go of his father’s death. His obsession with revenge and rot reflects both society`s and his soul`s spoilage.

Hamlet’s mind becomes so poisoned with revenge that he acts rashly towards his mother, questioning her morality and her motives for marrying her ` brother`, Claudius. While arguing with Gertrude he is blinded by rage and accidentally kills Polonius, and dragging his whole kingdom to chaos to achieve something that is his personal affair.

Hamlet’s mental state is corrupted

In the beginning, we see Hamlet put on a mask of crazy in front of the King so he wouldn’t question his motifs but, as the play goes on, we start to wonder whether or not it’s an act. In the first scene, we are informed that it’s been 3 months since the king’s death, but later on, Hamlet says that it’s been only one month, then he uses ` little month`, and then to Ophelia he says that his father has been dead for only two hours. To which she says:” Nay, ’tis twice two months, my lord.” (III. ii.)


This erratic slip of time might show that his grip of reality is loosening, even though his words may seem sensical, his grasp of the situation is slipping.

Gertrude’s actions

Although Gertrude has no ill intent, her actions cause a domino effect on the other character`s corruption. Her lack of empathy, when she tells Hamlet to stop mourning over his father, and her hasty marriage is what makes him unable to trust or confess his feelings to her.

Furthermore, not only is he betrayed by his mother, but also by his own friends. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern get pulled into Hamlet`s chain of slaughter by betraying him and acting upon Claudius` evil intentions. By attempting to murder the Prince, the three characters actually attempt to commit the ultimate crime against Hamlet and the veracity of the Danish royal succession.

Even more evidence of corruption

Above all, Claudius and Laertes develop a plan for him to avenge Polonius` death by convincing Hamlet to take part in a duel, which, in the eyes of the people present, would not draw up the attention of any foul play. In addition to fooling Hamlet and the court, Claudius also tricks Laertes into thinking that he was avenging his father’s death, when, in reality, his only desire was to rid Danemark of his nephew.

This can be considered as the ultimate act of deception, not only does Claudius destroy the lives of all the other characters, but the integrity of the Danish monarchy.


King Claudius’ deception corruption

Ultimately, King Claudius` deception is the one which leads everyone into despair, not only ensuring their deaths but also his own. His own greed is what starts the endless cycle of corruption that not only drives the people around him mad, but it also affects the country’s fate.

To conclude, we can say that a rotten can apple spoils the whole barrel. “One mouldy apple can lead to a bunch of mouldy apples because the mould will spread looking for a new food source.” In our case, a corrupt leader turned not only the people around him mad but also caused chaos in Denmark on an interpersonal and governmental level, preventing both from surviving. corruption


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