As we have read in most of Shakespeare’s tragedies, death is one of the recurring themes that hold a lot of significance towards the plot of the play. In Hamlet, death is significant in the sense that there are a lot of unanswered questions and mysteries associated with it. We see that the kingdom is in no great state of mourning after the death of King Hamlet. This draws the question, is Hamlet appropriately reacting to the death of his father, or is he as mad as everyone thinks he is?
We find Hamlet obsessing over the idea of death, and he spends a lot of time pondering, and talking to himself about the spiritual afterlife. He must avenge his father’s death, for if he were with him at that moment, he would want to make him proud. When Hamlet thinks about death, a feeling that immediately comes to mind is uncertainty. This is true for most people. We often ask ourselves questions like, “did he know how much I loved him?” Or make statements like, “I wonder if she heard me say that I love her as she was taking her last breath.” Like love, death is a heavy subject and it can be frustrating trying to determine what happens to us when we pass on.
Hamlet not only obsesses over his father’s death, but also the value of his own life. He questions whether or not it is worth living if he cannot be with his father, and while his mother has so quickly gotten over his death and is already having relations with his uncle. He states in Act I Scene II,
“Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew, or that the Everlasting had not fixed his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God, God! how weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!” Hamlet is stating that he wishes he could disappear in thin air, like water vapor. If that is impossible, then he wishes God wasn’t against suicide, otherwise he’d have done it already. He doesn’t kill himself because there is a special place in hell for people that take their own lives, and God would make no exception for him. He explains how his life is tired and state and utterly pointless. He considers this, and ponders which situation would be worse, enduring hell, or the painful experiences that the cards of life have been dealt to him.
To be honest, If my father had died and my mother got over him as quickly as the Queen did in this play, I’d probably react in a similar way. I’m not sure if I would have suicidal thoughts, however, this situation in modern times would have probably been handled better. For example, Hamlet might go to see a therapist, or family grief counseling. In Shakespearean times, his reactions are seen as unhealthy and borderline crazy. Personally, I don’t think Hamlet is mad, I think he is incredibly frustrated and needs somebody on his side besides apparitions. The ghosts he sees are further examples of uncertainty. Who knows if they actually exist or not, and if they are actually trying to help Hamlet.