When Hamlet speaks to his father’s ghost, his father insists that Hamlet avenge his death by killing Claudius. The ghost explains to his son that King Claudius has corrupted the nation of Denmark, has robbed him of his own life, and therefore, achieving revenge is crucial. After conversing with the ghost, Hamlet vows to seek vengeance on Claudius. This “seeking” of vengeance very quickly turns into an obsession. Hamlet’s every thought seems to revolve around his plot to kill Claudius, causing friends and family to express concern over his strange behaviors. Rumors begin to travel around Denmark that Hamlet has “gone mad,” while Hamlet claims to only be feigning his insanity.
Hamlet’s soliloquy where he contemplates suicide is one example of his obsession with death. Amidst the stresses of planning Claudius’ murder, Hamlet even considers ending his own life: “To be, or not to be: that is the question” (III.i.58). In this well-known soliloquy, Hamlet brings up the point that why would someone go through the “whips and scorns of life,” grunting and sweating, when one could escape these trials and end it at any moment. Clearly, Hamlet believes that the easiest way out of his misery here on earth is by suicide. However, he realizes that the consequences of taking his own life would be to suffer in the blazing flames of hell in the afterlife. When his father’s ghost spoke to him, he told Hamlet that he would remain in purgatory “…till the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burnt and purged away” (I.v.12). The ghost also explains that he is not able to share the secrets of purgatory, secrets that would “harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, thy knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand on end…” (I.v.16). The fact that his father cannot even speak about the horrors of purgatory has instilled fear in the bones of Hamlet. He realizes that if he were to commit suicide, he, too, would have to endure the wrath of purgatory. Throughout his soliloquy, Hamlet weighs out the pros and cons of suicide, which demonstrates his obsession with the afterlife and death. Hamlet says that suicide is only for those who are not cowards, “…thus conscience does make cowards of us all…” (III.i.84). After speaking with his father’s ghost, he knows what would be in store for him after death, and determines that instead of taking his own life, he must persevere these hard times and carry out with his original plan to kill Claudius.
In addition, Hamlet’s obsession with death includes an odd fascination with the grotesque decomposition of bodies and what happens to the deceased in the afterlife. In Act III, when Claudius is in prayer, Hamlet contemplates killing his uncle while he is off guard. Suddenly, it dawns on Hamlet that if Claudius were to die during prayer, his