Hamlet

Six Lives, One Question: Why?

By the end of Hamlet, six people--not including Hamlet himself--are dead. It has been asserted that the sole reason for the bloodshed was Hamlet's inability to take speedy revenge on the king. However, a close examination into the circumstances shows that each death can, in fact, be traced back to the corruption within Elsinore, as manifested in the form of King Claudius. Furthermore, in four of the six deaths, the character's own corruption also contributes significantly to his downfall.

The first of the deaths is that of Polonius, Claudius' right-hand man. He had volunteered to spy on the discourse between Hamlet and Gertrude to glean the cause behind Hamlet's apparent madness. Polonius himself had contrived this idea (after his earlier, botched plan, where he and Claudius eavesdropped on Hamlet's conversation with Ophelia) to prove to the king that Hamlet had grown mad pining over Ophelia. Polonius puts forth this plan even in the face of Claudius's decree that Hamlet should be sent immediately to England (and thus arguably cementing his own fate):

It shall do well. But yet do I believe

The origin and commencement of his grief

Sprung from neglected love....

-My lord, do as you please,

But, if you hold it...

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