Hamlet and Human Nature

Kami McClure
AP English Pd. 2
Hamlet Essay

In order to rot, one must first be fresh. In order for there to be evil, there must first be good. In order to die, one must first be born. Thus, the natural state of mankind revolves, as does a garden. William Shakespeare makes this point abundantly clear in his play Hamlet. Using a minor character, Marcellus, Shakespeare proclaims, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Applying this quote to human nature and the continued illusion to a garden, one could resolve that the “rotten” state of Denmark is comparable to the cyclical characteristics of man and nature.

“Frailty, thy name is woman.” Hamlet’s animosity towards his mother is quite understandable. From his point of view he feels betrayed and abandoned. Not only has it been less that two months since the kings body has lain with the worms, but Gertrude has in this short time period discovered another body to warm her bed. Hamlet’s feelings churn between melancholy, uneasy, and anguish. The inability to deal with his emotions is comparable to that of a gardener who has lost his determination to weed his garden. To imply frailty in the above quote also implies that if the woman/garden is treated right then benefits will be forth comings. However, the benefits must be earned, otherwise the frail flower will be over taken by the aggressive weed.

Speaking of conflict, another allusion to combat is created in Act I scene i. Upon the Ghost’s entrance one is bombarded with images or war and threat. The stalking figure of the dead king Hamlet is clothed in armor. The recognition shown him, by means of Marcellus and Horation. suggests that Hamlet was often found dressed in such a manner. From the reaction it may not be too far out to assume that Denmark was in a near state of perpetual conflict. If man is to fight or be in conflict with another man most of the time then it can be presumed; he is evil, for warfare is evil. Just as the weed spreads so must the evil.

Polonius summed up the ongoing resolution when he established that, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.” Relating this quote to the garden image, one must take notice that it slips in like the last piece of the puzzle. The ecstasy, or madness, is actuality symbolic for the wild growth in the garden. While the ‘method’ is a repeating cycle which revolves from fresh to rot. Thus bringing the madness to a close.

The unweeded garden imagery Shakespeare employs is that of the wild taking over the fresh, destroying it from the inside. The ‘rot’ Marcellus mentions is indeed the same thing. Looking at all the aspects mentioned above the connection is clear. Everything changes, change is inherent. In order to die one must first be born. In order to be good there must first be evil. In order to be fresh one in the end must rot.


shakespeare, william. HAMLET.