“‘Tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature possess it merely.” (Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 139-141)
This play begins and when we first get a glimpse of the protagonist Hamlet, and we can tell that he is very confused and disturbed at all the events that are occuring in his life. First his father dies, unnaturally, but he does not know that yet, and his mother marries her brother in law. He uses a metaphor to explain the condition of Denmark at the moment, comparing it to an unweeded garden where gross smelly things posess it. This shows that the condition of the kingdom is decaying and that Hamlet can see this happening. We can imagine that Denmark is a garden that needs weeding, and Hamlet will have to be the one to tend to this task eventually.
This line which is said in the first act of the play foreshadows one of the main themes in this play, written by William Shakespeare. Hamlet returns home to find his father dead, his mother married to her brother-in-law and now he sees that his father has returned as a ghost. All of these incidents happening at once show us that everything is not as it seems in Denmark. There is a connection between the state of the kingdom and the events that occur throughout the play. Because the King was believed to be appointed by God, The Divine Right of Kings, Claudius killing Hamlet Senior was not only a crime against King Hamlet, but by association, God as well. This may be why so many horrible things occur throughout the play, because Claudius is being punished, and since he is the King, his punishment reflects on the state of the kingdom of Denmark.
“For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion…”- Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 2, Line 197-198)
Hamlet is talking to Polonius and he tells him not to let his daughter walk in the sunlight. He adds this imagery of a dead dog being decomposed so that Polonius cannot tell what he is talking about, keeping up with his act of being insane. He is trying to warn Polonius that bad things are happening, and that he should keep Ophelia safe, because Ophelia was his girlfriend, and he still cares about her, but he can’t show it because his kingdom is corrupt. He is trying to keep Ophelia safe by distancing himself from her, because he knows that he will have to do dangerous things to try and avenge his fathers untimely death. Polonius believes that Hamlet is mad because of his love for Ophelia, but really, Hamlet is just trying to bring about an end to the corruption, and he belives that the only way to do this is by acting insane, so people say things that they would not normally say. Polonius is a corrupt man; he is the advisor to the king and he spies on people when he does not have anything to do with what is going on. This leads to his death, when he was spying on Hamlet and Queen Gertrudes conversation in Act 3 Scene 4.
“Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at him.” -Hamlet (Act 4, Scene 3, Lines 22-24)
When Claudius questions Hamlet about the whereabouts of Polonius’ body, Hamlet delivers this line. He talks about worms eating Polonius’ body, worms being decomposers. We can see therefore that Polonius’ body is probably decaying right now. This is a direct reflection of the state of Denmark at this point. Everyone believes that Hamlet is insane, and Claudius is plotting to take advantage of this by having Hamlet murdered in England. Rozencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlets school mates are pretending to be Hamlet’s friends, but actually they are just pawns of the king, which Hamlet was quick to figure out. He tells them that he will not be used by them: ” …you cannot play upon me.” (Act 3, Scene 2, 401) There is nobody that Hamlet trusts anymore. He can’ t trust Ophelia, because he thinks that she might tell her father or brother, he cannot trust Gertrude because he does not know wether she will keep his secret or tell Claudius. His only true friend is Horatio, but he does not feel that he can trust him too much either, because he does not tell him what he is thinking.
“Why sir his hide is so tanned with his trade, that he will keep out water a great while; and your water is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body. Here’s a skull now; this skull has lain in the earth three and twenty years.” -Gravedigger (Act 5, Scene 1, Lines 175-179)
Once Hamlet returns to Denmark after escaping from being murdered in England, he meets up with Horatio and they meet a gravedigger. Hamlet realizes that the person who is about to be buried must have committed suicide because they do not have a proper Christian burial. Hamlet discovers that the person being buried is Ophelia, and he and Laertes fight in her grave. This is all part of the process of Hamlet “unweeding” the garden that is Denmark. He killed Polonius becuase he thought he was Claudius, which led to Ophelia losing her mind and killing herself. Hamlet had feared that something bad would happen, and he had told Ophelia to “get thee to a nunnery…” (Act 3, Scene 1, Lines 148-149). It seemed like he was just insulting her, but he could not tell her directly to leave, because there was no way he could be sure that she would not go and reveal everything to Polonius, and by association, the king.
“Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel? Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay, might stop a hole to keep the wind away…” -Hamlet (Act 5, Scene 1, Lines 216-222)
Here Hamlet ponders the fact that Alexander the Great lived such a legendary life, but when he died, he just became dust, and that no matter what happens to us, we just return to the earth. He wonders if maybe the remains of Alexander might have been used to make something else, something we use for granted. Then he talks about Caeser and how he died, and who knows where his remains are now. Hamlet realizes that after our lives end, everyone just returns to the earth, and there is no get around that fact. This goes along with the motif of decay which has been traced throughout the play, and which is a metaphor for the corruption which exists in Denmark when Claudius takes the throne by killing his brother. After everyone dies however, we see that Fortinbras is set to take the throne, which shows us that Denmark can become strong and whole once again.