In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Shakespeare uses symbolism to reveal many themes in the play as well as reinforcing many aspects of different characters. In Hamlet the symbolism of gardens and flowers is used to reinforce different aspects of the character of Ophelia that we wouldn’t have known without, the use of illness as a symbol contributes to the character of Hamlet. During the play we are constantly debating on if Hamlet is truly ill or not.
Shakespeare also uses to symbolism of lying throughout the entire play, which demonstrates the theme of order vs. disorder. During the play Shakespeare uses the symbolism of gardens and flowers to reinforce many different aspects of Ophelia. The biggest aspect is how her father, Polonius and brother, Laertes are constantly trying to give her advice. “I shall the effect of this good lesson keep As watchmen to my heart; but, good my brother, Do not as some ungracious pastors do, Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven. ” (1, 3, 45-8) Ophelia is telling her brother that she appreciates that he is continuously giving her advice on her own personal life and asks him to show her how to get to heaven and uses the symbolism of garden by saying it is a thorny path meaning not as easy as it seems. In reality she truly feels as if he should stop giving her advice and concentrate on taking his own. As the play continues on we see Ophelia slowly transforming. She begins to question Hamlet, and whether he is truly going mad or not. Throughout the play we see how the symbolism truly reinforces the character of Hamlet.
Continuously people question whether he is truly ill or if he is just acting that way. In the beginning we see that Hamlet is taking action once he saw the ghost of his father. “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. ” (1,5,25). When the ghost of his father tells him it was Claudius who had committed the murder Hamlet then realizes that he is to take revenge upon him. “They are coming to the play: I must be idle. ” (3, 2, 92) When Hamlet discovers that Polonius and Claudius will both be present at the play he decides he must act insane.
Hamlet acting ill during the play works to his advantage until a certain point where people truly do believe he has gone mad. “ . . . Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbrac’d, No hat upon his head, his stockings foul’d . . . Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other, And with a look so piteous in purport As if he had been loosed out of hell To speak of horrors, he comes before me. ” (2, 1, 77-84) Ophelia is telling her father, Polonius that she sincerely believes that Hamlet is ill.
She feels as if everything is wrong about him to his looks to his personality. By losing Ophelia Hamlet truly does begin to go mad and by not taking action on revenge of his father’s murder. Hamlet feels that he is a coward because he speaks of revenge but does not follow through. “O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth! ” (4, 4, 65-6) Hamlet realizes that he must take action and that it is his only chance to do so. After Hamlet murdered Polonius people knew that he was ill, and began to excuse his actions because of it. And in this brainish apprehension kills, the unseen goo old man” (4,1, 11) Gertrude is saying that Hamlet accidentally killed Polonius in his deranged state of mind and that he could not take the blame for such action. Claudius agreed with Gertrude that it was not truly Hamlet’s fault due to his illness. “But like the owner of a foul disease” (4, 1, 21) Claudius is saying that he feels as if Hamlet’s mind had turned into a foul disease. In the play you see the transformation of Hamlet’s character all due to the symbolism of illness that Shakespeare had used.
In the play we see many symbols provide reinforcement for different aspects of characters, but there is also many times where the symbolism that Shakespeare uses helps reveal different themes. By using the symbolism of lying throughout the play we see how it reveals order vs. disorder with many different situations. Claudius murdered his very own brother, which had already created disorder for the country of Denmark though when he continues to lie about the death and begins takes the thrown that’s when the theme is revealed. There is absolute disorder in Denmark due to the lying that their King has been doing. To our most valiant brother; so much for him. ” (1,2, 25) During his speech to Denmark Claudius acts very confident and lies about caring for his brother. He acts very confident therefore no one would suspect it was he. Polonius also creates disorder when he begins to lie, and manipulate Hamlet. “You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said, we heard it all” (3, 1, 181-182). Polonius admits that he was already spying on Hamlet. Throughout William Shakespeare’s Hamlet many symbols are used to reveal different aspects of characters as well as different themes throughout the play.