Free «Symbolism in Hamlet» Essay Sample

Symbolism is the representation of something using something else. This can be done through associating or resembling a material object or a written sign. We can also use language to associate two things and thus a phrase or a description, which represents a deeper meaning than the words themselves, is symbolic. This paper will explain some of the symbols used by William Shakespeare in his book "Hamlet."

Yorick's Skull and the Graveyard

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This is brought out through Hamlet's constant brooding over death and humanity. In the infamous graveyard scene, Hamlet holds the unearthed skull of Yorick who was a court jester he knew and loved when he was a young boy. The skull here represents the physical reminder of the finality of death and for all the brooding and philosophical contemplation of mortality Hamlet literary looks death directly in eye. At this point we realize that the encounter with the skull marks a turning point for Hamlet because it is here that he thinks about the commonness of death and the importance of life (Forker, 105). In spite of thinking about Yorick's death, he also considers what become of the body that Alexander the Great became. It becomes a more mature acceptance of the common human fate. We can realize that when Hamlet was contemplating about this we realize that he did not think about suicide nor was he anguished.

It is from this scene that we see Hamlet literary aging up because when the play begins, Hamlet is a university student, which means he was young and by the time he makes it to the graveyard in Act V.

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he appears to be thirty years old. This difference depicts a much older age than the average university student. The evidence here is that the first clown says that he has been a gravedigger in Elsinore ever since he was born and Hamlet reveals later that he has been a sexton in Denmark for about thirty years (Forker, 120). This helps us to reflect and have a more mature outlook of life and death. Notting the way the difference between the graveyard and the royal court we see a difference because of the dirt and bones that is seen. This can be seen from act one and in the court where Hamlet was told to stifle his grief and to forget his dead father so that he can move on. This now shows us that the graveyard is a space where Hamlet is allowed to remember the dead. The grave yard is therefore where Hamlet remembers his childhood as a happy time where his father was alive and all was well in the world.


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"Rank" Gardens

There's a whole lot of garden imagery in the play. The thing is that the gardens in Hamlet are not necessarily the kind of places where one would like to be because one would watch butterflies while they picnic. According to Hamlet, the entire world was an un-weeded garden that allows the growth of seeds, things rank and gross of nature (Forker,125). The word "rank" here refers to the fertile overgrowth of vegetation and also implies the kind of festering and rot that often accompanies lush foliage.

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Hamlet sees the world this way becomes his father's death as well as his mother's sexual appetite and marriage to Claudius are the causes of his view. The term rank turns up over again in the play to enhance the description of Gertrude's incestuous relationship (Forker, 130). When we consider for example, Hamlet's description of his mother's rank and marriage bed, it offers a rather repulsive view of sexuality.


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Of course, this allusion to the world as a ruined garden also recalls Eve's temptation in the biblical Garden of Eden, which, according to Christian theology, causes man to fall off the garden. This allusion to the Garden of Eden is strengthened is given strength later in the play when the Ghost reveals that Old King Hamlet was murdered by his brother, Claudius, while he slept in his orchard. It is revealed to us that the sound of the ghost was a lot like young Hamlet. This can be seen from the way the way the ghost was insisting in the murder that was rankly abused (Forker, 160). This was through the entire kingdom which was carried out as if Claudius poured poison in the ear of Denmark. We are further informed that the ghost insisted that Claudius's poison caused a scaly rash and loathsome crust that covered his once smooth body. This we realise suggests that the whole country had been infected by a contagious disease.

Hamlet's Costume Changes

The costume changes is also a symbol because early on in the play, we learn that Hamlet wears an all black get-up that seems to be getting on his mom's nerves. This is explained that he wears an inky cloak because he's in mourning for his dead father, who hasn't been gone for very long. But, Hamlet was the only figure in the royal court who was still upset. His mother held Claudius about two seconds after the death of old Hamlet and now that Claudius is king, the happy couple wants everyone to forget about Old Hamlet (Forker, 170). This reveals a kind of difference because Hamlet's black attire sets him apart just like his grief makes him an outsider in the cheerful court. When the plays staged, Hamlet's black clothing really stands out, especially when the director positions him off to the side of stage while the rest of the court is in the centre.

Eden in Hamlet (The Genesis account)

According to the first book of the Bible, when God created humans he placed them in the Garden of Eden, sometimes known as 'Paradise'. In this garden was the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil. The first two humans, Adam and Eve, were told by God that they could eat anything in the garden except the fruit of this tree which, according to one later tradition, was an apple tree. When Eve, the first woman, was tempted, the snake is held to be the devil in the shape of a snake who spoke to her, telling her that if they ate the fruit she and Adam would 'be as gods, knowing good and evil. This was a lie, but the serpent induced Eve to eat.

She and Adam were then aware of shame of being innocently naked and they tried to make themselves clothes out of fig leaves. The beautiful garden is therefore a symbol of a paradise-like existence, free from sin. Due to the nature of serpents killing through poisoning their prey with venom, the name specifically given to snake-poison and since the poison can be administered in secret as opposed to a face-to-face confrontation with an enemy) in literature poison is frequently associated with particularly vile and underhand murders.

In Hamlet therefore symbolism is widely used and most physical objects represent thematic ideas. One important symbol is Yorick's skull, which Hamlet discovers in the graveyard in the first scene of Act V. As Hamlet speaks to the skull the king's former jester, he fixates on death's inevitability and the disintegration of the body. He urges the skull to "get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come" (Forker, 179) shows us that no one can avoid death. He says to the skull that there hung lips that had kissed what he did not know. This is an important aspect that indicates his fascination with the physical consequences of death (Forker, 175). This last concept is an important motif in the play because Hamlet frequently makes references to every human body's eventual decay.

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