Summary: the Perception of the Human Body

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William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, provides a battle through the multiple personalities all within their concept of moral justice.The main focus behind the play is exploring the weakness of man and how easily vulnerable humans can be in certain situations in life. Shakespeare utilizes the aspects of revenge, betrayal, and corruption to explain the human body. It touches base on the delicate aspects of life and demonstrates how vulnerability can be represented through madness. The concept of madness is represented through Hamlet which ultimately is able to find clarity through this action. Human experiences shape the human body which causes the individual to suffer and act in that precise moment. Human bodies are perceived in different ways depending on the ideas one may withhold.

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In the same way, Shakespeare utilizes the image of an unweeded garden to express his own view of humanity through Hamlet. The garden would symbolize people in the world that would considered either rank or gross. The rank people would be the individuals who do not grow, but also do not allow others to progress either. Shakespeare perceived individuals to be like this garden in which humanity would fight against each other for survival. In Hamlet, the constant issue is to determine and obtain proof in order to seek revenge. Human bodies are viewed as a simple object that can either be taken away or mistreated while it continues to be alive.

 Hamlet’s vulnerability is noticeable in the beginning of the play when Gertrude, his mother, marries Claudius whom is her husband’s brother. The idea of this situation causes Hamlet disgust which affects his state of mind. In Act 1, Scene 5, the ghost takes advantage of Hamlet’s vulnerability and informs him that he is his father’s spirit. The ghost states,“I am thy father’s spirit, doomed for a certain term to walk the night, and for the day confined to fast in the fires, till the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burnt and purged away”. The ghost claims he must avenge his death since he was murdered by Claudius in order to seduce the queen. The Ghost portrays the body that is no longer physically there, yet continues to roam around in the afterlife and end everything that was left behind.On the contrary, Hamlet broadens on the idea of death and humanity in the graveyard scene in which he holds the skull of Polonius’s servant, Yorick. Death and decay draws an image of a body rotting and completely going to waste. The skull of Yorick represents how death is inevitable and that life is meaningless. While in the graveyard Hamlet speaks to Horatio about his childhood memories with Yorick, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy”. The importance of time during the capability of living because eventually death will approach. An individual is not capable of avoiding fate in this case the end of life. Death is considered to be either a better route or a continuous battle to rest in peace.

Ophelia, the young noblewomen of Denmark, was shown to have a passive behavior. Her character demonstrated that if life is lived without honor then it is worse than death. The constant manipulation and restrictions she tolerated from Hamlet resulted in have no control over her life. Ophelia’s death was honorable since she preferred to commit suicide and leave the world of victimization. The idea that her persona did not allow for anymore mistreatment and death was the only solution to ending this oppression. The way in which Ophelia’s drowning body is portrayed shows the sexist view of how women’s body increasing in value as it becomes lifeless. In this scene Gertrude states,“her clothes spread wide, and mermaid-like awhile they bore her up…” . Men would view women in this situation as beautiful since their autonomy is removed. Even though, the body is dead men view the women body as attractive and pure. Gertrude described Ophelia as a creature in the water rather than a human. Women’s bodies take on the significance of being portrayed as pure objects. The romanticism behind the women’s bodies after death is quite shameful since they become objectified and men do not undergo this kind of degradation.

In the play, the encounters that Hamlet has with death reveals his view on the human body. The view he portrays contributes to two concepts of death which is suicide or revenge which determines where the body ends up. Hamlet has very little interest in the concept of life and is seeking to find answers on what occurs after death whether it be peacefulness or a continuous nightmare. The interest in life after death begins with the ghost of the king which is basically the living soul of the dead king. The ghost symbolizes the living spirit that remains present throughout the play. Ghosts are considered to be supernatural and ultimately be the souls of the people trapped in purgatory. In the afterlife, the dead becomes this spirit that returns to living and appear on people in order to continue something they left behind that does not allow to rest in peace. The manipulation the human body is determined through the ideas society puts upon the individual through the experiences. But the body also deforms human beings until they reduce to completely nothing.



Works Cited

  1. Shakespeare, William, and G.R Hibbard. Hamlet. Oxford University Press, 2008. 

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