Shakespeare’s Hamlet Relation to Death and Life


Through the Hamlet play, Shakespeare shows that Hamlet – the main character – is deeply influenced by the concepts of death, The Universe, and life in a very profound way. Indeed, Hamlet has a very close relationship with the aforementioned concepts. To illustrate, the character is inspired by The Universe, through the ghost of King Hamlet – his deceased father – to, devote his entire life to avenging the father’s murder. As such, Hamlet is hugely motivated by his desire for revenge. This zeal ultimately costs Hamlet his life. The concept of death is so much intricately intertwined with Hamlet that it eventually makes him die. On the other hand, the concept of life greatly influences Hamlet’s life that he eventually dies owing to the associated disposition. This phenomenon is evident through Hamlet’s action of deciding to act on the ghost’s message. Hamlet is very much touched by the idea that Claudius denied King Hamlet of their life. The character thus acts based on the indignation he has for King Claudius to avenge King Hamlet’s death. This quest takes up all of Hamlet’s remaining days on earth. Ultimately, the mission costs Hamlet his life. All in all, Shakespeare’s Hamlet is so deeply related to death, The Universe, and life that the combination of these 3 concepts changes the character’s life philosophies and dispositions and ultimately costs the character his life.

Relationship with The Universe

To demonstrate, Hamlet’s otherwise peaceful and uneventful life is suddenly altered by the appearance of the ghost of King Hamlet within Elsinore, thus marking the former’s initial contact with The Universe. Hamlet initially encounters the ghost after Bernardo and Francisco spot it and inform the former of its presence. King Hamlet’s ghost instructs Hamlet to exact revenge on King Claudius – King Hamlet’s murderer – by killing the killer. In response, Hamlet dedicates his whole life to settling scores with King Claudius. He addresses the ghost by saying ‘art thou there, / true penny?’ (Shakespeare 53). Hamlet also refers to the ghost as some ‘honest ghost,‘ thus proving that he is convinced of its authenticity (Hamlet: Entire Play). The aforementioned occurrences show that Hamlet fully trusts the ghost. Hamlet is therefore demonstrated as being profoundly influenced by The Universe based on the ghost’s commission that radically changes the former’s life.

In addition, the influence of The Universe on Hamlet is evident whereby he fails to kill King Claudius – who is apparently in prayer – for fear that the King’s soul will ascend to heaven. The prince wonders whether if Claudius ‘goes to heaven,’ Hamlet will be ‘revenged’ (Shakespeare 62). Spiritual issues are thus seen as influencing Hamlet in a very weighty way as they prevent the character from executing a lifetime goal. Consequently, Hamlet’s indecision avails an ideal opportunity for King Claudius to murder the prince. The Universe – that is represented by Hamlet’s spiritual convictions – is therefore seen as impacting on the character by inspiring a development that is related to Hamlet’s eventual demise.

Still, on the concept of how The Universe influences Hamlet’s life, the prince adopts a very new personality after encountering the ghost of his deceased father. These newly acquired dispositions play a significant role in eventually causing Hamlet’s death. To illustrate, after receiving the commission to avenge King Hamlet from the ghost, Hamlet starts to depict erratic and strange behavior. This aspect is evident through Hamlet’s decision to suddenly become hostile and cold towards Ophelia with whom he has had a romantic relationship. After observing this change in attitude in her lover, Ophelia reports the same to Polonius – her father. The father then arranges for a situation whereby he can observe Hamlet’s views about Ophelia by watching the 2 lovers in a conversation. Ophelia approaches Hamlet and promises to offer him the necessary affection after which Hamlet shouts at Ophelia, advising her to join a nunnery. This event confirms that Hamlet has really changed owing to his encounter with the ghost. The character has completely abandoned all his earlier pursuits, as is evident through his decision to leave Ophelia, in favor of executing the ghost’s assignment. The concept of The Universe is thus demonstrated as greatly impacting Hamlet’s life and viewpoints.

In relation to the aforementioned issues, Hamlet is made to drastically change his philosophies about various issues, especially marriage, after the encounter with the ghost. To this end, Hamlet at one point tells off Ophelia – his lover – and informs her that he intends to put an end to all marriages. This idea evidently derives from Hamlet’s indignation towards King Claudius’ beastly act of murdering King Hamlet and later marrying Queen Gertrude – the deceased Kings’ widow. The concept of The Universe, through which Hamlet learns about King Claudius’ heinous act, is thus shown to be greatly influencing Hamlet’s life. To demonstrate, after Hamlet identifies the strategy employed by King Claudius to ascend to the throne – namely, marrying Queen Gertrude – the former becomes so indignant of marriages that he promises to abolish marriage unions should the former assume headship over Norway. In this instance, the concept of The Universe, which is represented by the ghost of King Hamlet, is shown to be impacting Hamlet in an irreversible way.

Relationship with death

On the other hand, the concept of death ultimately influences Hamlet’s existence since King Hamlet’s demise and the related developments directly lead to Hamlet’s death. To illustrate, the concept of their father having been violently killed by Claudius inspires Hamlet to zealously seek revenge against the murderer. This passion so much takes over Hamlet that he unwittingly discloses his intentions to King Claudius. King Claudius thus decides to kill Hamlet before the latter has the chance to murder the former. After making Laertes hate Hamlet, Claudius arranges for a friendly sport between the 2 enemies. Claudius also puts in measures to ensure that Hamlet does not emerge from the sport alive by allowing Laertes to poison the latter’s sword with deadly venom. Laertes refers to this poisoned sword as ‘The treacherous instrument’ that is ‘envenom’d’ (Shakespeare 74). The death of King Hamlet is thus shown as ultimately impacting on Hamlet’s life by causing the character’s death.

In addition, Shakespeare depicts Hamlet as being hugely influenced by King Hamlet’s death when the character kills Polonius and fails to show remorse for this act, thus setting the stage for Hamlet’s own death. Hamlet has been so much aggravated by the death of King Hamlet that he fails to feel the natural sorrow when he accidentally murders Polonius. Rather than apologies for this accidental murder, Hamlet refers to Polonius as a ‘wretched, rash, intruding fool’ (Shakespeare 83). This statement proves that to Hamlet, anyone’s death is insignificant because King Hamlet suffered a cruel death and has not been avenged. The cunning King Claudius grabs the opportunity to implicate Hamlet for Polonius’ death before Laertes – Polonius’ son. This sly lie makes Laertes hate Hamlet and wish for the latter’s death. Eventually, King Claudius tricks the duo into a supposedly friendly match that has however been designed to kill Hamlet. Claudius’ plans succeed but cost the King his own life. Hamlet, Laertes, and Queen Gertrude also finally die. This development thus proves that the concept of death, reflected through King Hamlet’s murder, ultimately costs Hamlet his life.

Relationship with life

Likewise, the concept of life is very instrumental in ultimately leading Hamlet to his death as he strives to punish Claudius for having denied King Hamlet of the king’s right to life. Hamlet’s desire so much consumes him that he dedicates his entire life to seeking ways of exacting revenge on Claudius by killing the latter. Hamlet remarks ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’ (Shakespeare 68). This observation denotes Hamlet’s displeasure with the death of his father. The would-be victim however senses Hamlet’s intentions and conducts a series of preemptive attacks that ultimately cost the latter his life. Claudius begins his plans against Hamlet by sending Guildenstern and Rosencrantz – Hamlet’s friends – to spy on Hamlet. Later, the two friends are commissioned to accompany Hamlet on an expedition to England whereby Hamlet is to be killed. Hamlet mentions this arrangement through the statement ‘two schoolfellows, /…. bear the mandate; ….. sweep my way’ (Shakespeare 75). After these 2 schemes fail, Claudius persuades Hamlet to engage in a friendly sword fight with Laertes. This event happens after Claudius has made Laertes hate Hamlet based on the false allegations that Hamlet Caused Ophelia’s death. Claudius thus permits Laertes to poison the latter’s sword. Hamlet is scratched with the word, thus poisoning him and thus killing him. The concept of life thus draws Hamlet to his death as he seeks to punish Claudius’s act of denying King Hamlet their life.

In relation to the aforementioned issue, Hamlet is so much affected by the brutal cutting off of King Hamlet’s life that he loses respect for life as is evident through his reaction after accidentally murdering Polonius. Hamlet does not show any remorse for this fatal accident. Rather, he indicates that Polonius is responsible for his own death by meddling in other people’s affairs. Hamlet’s emotions have fundamentally changed; he does not seem to have any feelings. The same viewpoint is exhibited when Hamlet murders King Claudius as the play ends. Hamlet uses Laertes’ poisoned sword to stab King Claudius. This poison is surely bound to kill the King. Hamlet does not however seem to be convinced that King Claudius is going to die. He thus goes ahead to force the King to drink the poisoned alcoholic drink that the King himself made. These actions show that the concept of life – as is represented by Hamlet’s father’s death – has greatly altered Hamlet’s views about death. He does not wince as he kills King Claudius.


In summary, through the Hamlet play, Shakespeare describes Hamlet’s experiences to demonstrate that this character’s life is profoundly influenced by the concepts of life, The Universe, and death. Hamlet’s views about life make him dedicate his whole existence to punishing Claudius for denying King Hamlet of their gift of life. In addition, The Universe comes into play through King Hamlet’s ghost’s commission that Hamlet should exact revenge on Claudius for killing King Hamlet. Further, Hamlet’s decision to spare King Claudius while the King prays shows that The Universe profoundly influences Hamlet. Hamlet also loses respect for life following his father’s death. These 3 interrelated concepts gang up to jointly lead to Hamlet’s eventual death.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William (reprint). Hamlet. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2007. Print.