Hamlet’s Evolving Understanding on Death


Hamlet’s Evolving Understanding on Death

Throughout the play, Hamlet is obsessed with the idea of death and understands death from a number of perspectives. When Hamlet meets the audience, he still does not seem to comprehend death as finality but is rather seen to wish for death in an uncritical manner (Shakespeare, 2004 p15). His idea of what death entails is seen to evolve throughout the play.

At first, he views death as a relief for the grief he feels towards his father and the anger he holds for his mother and uncle. Rather than viewing death as a permanent, fearful state, he sees death as a welcomed escape route from the stale, weary and unprofitable uses of this world and that he would welcome this change if only he could find a way to bring it about without violating the commandments of God (Hartman, 2010 p2).

In the third act, Hamlet’s understanding of death changes as he stops seeing death as an escape but rather an end life as it is known and also the start of a very uncertain afterlife. He feels apprehension when he questions what death will mean to him. By the fourth act, he starts to understand that all souls must come to face with a rather inglorious end(Hartman, 2010 p3). It is at the same point that Hamlet perceives death as indiscriminate of social hierarchy. In the first scene of the fifth act, Hamlet’s acceptance of his father’s death coincides with his realization that death is finality that he too must face(Hartman, 2010 p4). This enables him to take charge of his fate and confidently carry out vengeance that his father’s ghost requested of him.



Shakespeare, W. (2004). Themes, Motifs and Symbols. Hamlet William Shakespeare, 12-24.

Hartman, K. (2010). A Grave Understanding: Hamlet’s Evolving Perspectives on Death, 1-9.

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