ACT II, SCENE 5, LINES 105-111
“Yea, from the table of my memory
I’ll wipe away all trivial, fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmixed with baser matter.”
Hamlet wants to wipe his memory clean, as one would erase a slate. All of the images he has of his mother and uncle are insignificant to him now in the face of their betrayal. He will erase those images in his memory so as to not be deceived again. With his memories erased, Hamlet will be able to properly avenge his father’s murder.
There are many images of sickness, disease, wickedness, blemishes on the body, and other loathsome things that are metaphorically descriptive or the unwholesome condition of Denmark. Examples of this are on most pages. A few examples are found in the following places:
ACT IV, SCENE 4, LINES 28-30
“This is th’ impostume of much wealth and peace,
That inward breaks and shows no cause without
Why the man dies.”
Hamlet is talking to Fortinbras’ captain about the land, which has been symbolically given to Norway to prevent them from invading Denmark. This statement is however, also descriptive of Hamlet’s own condition. The events that have caused his madness fester inside him like an abscess or tumor. The cause is unseen by others though it is destroying him inside.
The true nature of Hamlet’s madness has been an issue of debate for scholars over the centuries. One theory is that Hamlet’s madness was for his own protection. In the time period in which Hamlet would have lived, governments functioned through the usage of intricate spying networks. In Hamlet’s Denmark, no one is permitted to go unwatched. Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Polonius are all sent to spy on Hamlet at various times. Polonius meets his death in the process. When Hamlet discovers the atrocity committed by his uncle, he wishes for revenge. In that time, it would have been quite natural to take matters into his own hands. In order to keep his plans secret; he cannot let on that he knows of the crime. Since he is constantly being spied upon and having his actions and words reported to Claudius, he must act enigmatically.
Shakespeare puts Hamlet into a situation in which he must deal with the betrayal and murder of his father by his own family members. Communication of feeling is done solely in monologue or through the reports of a third party, or spy. Hamlet must use the player’s performance to observe the reaction of Claudius because the topic of the death of King Hamlet is not acceptable discussion material. Therefore, Hamlet uses the performance to reveal the show that Claudius has been presenting to his subjects. The problem is, the revelation is made only to Hamlet. The people of Denmark know nothing of the ghost nor do they have any reason to suspect the reason for which the play is being presented. Hamlet’s mistake is that he has now alerted Claudius that he knows of the murder. Claudius then can plot to rid himself of Hamlet, and therefore the danger of being found out.
Following the presentation of the play, Hamlet loses his focus. He is unable to exact revenge against Claudius when the opportunity presents itself. Had he been able to kill his uncle while he was praying, the lives of Laertes, Gertrude, and himself might have been saved. Instead, Hamlet becomes lost in his own psychological cloud, which highlights his inability to bring matters to a swift end. Hamlet is a highly reactive character but does not ever seem to have a certain plan by which to accomplish his goal of revenge. Ultimately, the characters of Shakespeare’s Hamlet become victims of the unwholesome situation of their own creation.