For the purpose of this assignment, corruption is defined as dishonesty or improper behaviour, as by a person in position of authority. (The American Heritage School Dictionary, Hauton Miffin, Boston, USA, 1977).

Corruption in Hamlet doesn’t exactly start out strong. It grows as the play goes along, seeping into the different character’s lives.

The first hint that corruption is evident in Hamlet was when the ghost of King Hamlet arrived.

I doubt some foul play; would the night were come!

Till then sit still, my soul: foul deeds will rise,

Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes. (I.ii 255-257)

Hamlet’s saying that bad things are about to happen, which foreshadows a bit.

After the ghost arrives, it is implied that King Claudius was the one who killed King Hamlet. He did this for several reasons, two of which were to:

  • Marry his wife
  • Become the king of Denmark

Queen Gertrude is asking Guildenstern and Rosencrantz to spy on Hamlet. In the end, the king writes them a letter asking them to kill him, thus making them turn against Hamlet.

Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.

And I beseech you instantly to visit

My too much changèd son. Go, some of you,

And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is (II.ii 34-37)

One other way of how corruption is demonstrated in Hamlet was when King Claudius and Queen Gertrude both hire Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet. As a result, Hamlet trusts them less and in the end is the cause of their death.

An earnest conjuration from the king,

As England was his faithful tributary,

As love between them like the palm might flourish,

As peace should stiff her wheaten garland wear

And stand a comma ’tween their amities,

And many suchlike “as’s” of great charge,

That, on the view and knowing of these contents,

Without debatement further, more or less,

He should the bearers put to sudden death,

Not shriving time allowed. (V.ii 41-50)

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