Symbolism in Hamlet
Though not much has been written on symbolism in Shakespeare?s Hamlet, there is some there. The first symbol is found in the very first scene of the play. The changing of the guards can be a symbol of the new King in Denmark. Just as the guards are changing, so is the royal throne. The ghost appearing once the guards have changed symbolizes the trouble that happens once the kings change.
Another symbol can be found once the Hamlet sees the ghost. To hear what the ghost has to say, Hamlet must follow him through thick woods, which is not easy. This can symbolize searching for truth. For one to find truth, he or she must search through ?dark woods? to hear what it has to say.
A third symbol is found in the play that Hamlet organizes. In this, the symbols are more obvious. The king in the play symbolizes King Hamlet. He is murdered by a man who symbolizes King Claudius. The murderer marries the queen, who symbolizes Queen Gertrude.
Ophelia is the fourth symbol found in Hamlet. She brings flowers into the play, which generally symbolize love and passion. She gives different flowers to each of the main characters, each symbolizing something closely related to their part in the play. She gives Queen Gertrude rue, which symbolize sorrow; columbines, which symbolize gratitude; and daisies, which symbolize women who are easily won over by love. The queen does not, but should, show sorrow after the death of her husband. She receives columbines because Ophelia is grateful to her. Queen Gertrude shows that she is easily won over by love, because she marries her husband?s brother less than two months after his death. Ophelia gives her brother, Laertes, rosemary, which symbolize remembrance when used at funerals. She could be foreshadowing her own funeral and asking him to remember her. Finally, she gives Claudius fennel, which symbolize flattery. This is appropriate because throughout the play, he seems to worry about what his people will think of him. He does not want to put Hamlet on trial because of his appearance. He does not kill Hamlet because of his appearance. He wants his people to flatter him. Although she does not give them to anyone, Ophelia has violets, the symbol of faithfulness. Once she goes mad, her violets dry up, which shows the end of her faithfulness to being kind throughout the play.
These five cases are examples of the few symbols in Hamlet. More, smaller symbols can be found throughout the play.