Hamlet's Perception of Death

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In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, death is a reoccurring factor. Hamlet, who has recently faced the death of his father, is stricken with grief as he does not understand exactly what death is. Elizabethans all believed in the afterlife. Everyone strongly believed in ghosts, God, witches, and eventually ending up in either heaven or hell. Due to these beliefs and the complexity of Hamlet’s character, it is inevitable that his thoughts of death would wander outside the lines of his religion. As the play begins, we see Hamlet in the first stages of his escalating melancholy. It is easy to observe that his outlook on life has become bleak. “O! that this too too solid flesh would melt … all the uses of this world.” (I, ii, 129-135) Hamlet’s life no longer serves any value to him. He longs for death, wishing that he could end his own life without being doomed to an eternity in hell. This feeling lingers in his mind throughout most of the play, as in Hamlet’s fourth soliloquy it is believed he is debating killing himself as he ponders approaches that would not leave him at fault for his death; “Whether t’is nobler in the mind … and by opposing, end them?” (III, i, 57-60) Meanwhile, he also fears death as many of us today still do. Upon meeting his father’s apparition and learning of his unnatural murder, he is introduced to a new factor of death that was not considered before: purgatory. “Thou poor ghost.” (I, v, 97) Hamlet pities his father, as he was murdered and was not given the chance to pray. This conjures frightening thoughts in his mind, for if he were to be murdered as well, would he be sent to burn in purgatory? Towards the middle of the play, though Hamlet’s thoughts still point towards suicide, he begins to toy with the possibilities of what death could be like. “To die, to sleep; … perchance to dream.” (III, i, 60-65) He may find some comfort in death if death
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