In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the words “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” () Were spoken by Marcellous shortly after Hamlet leaves to follow a ghost. Marcellous and Horatio both feel that Hamlet should not be left alone with the ghost. Even though Hamlet directed them not to follow him, Marcellous feels that it
wouldn’t be right if they didn’t follow him because “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” () When examined, that statement can refer to many of things about the ruling class that are rotten in the state of Denmark One idea of the rottenness is the marriage between Hamlet’s uncle Claudius and his mother, Gertrude. Many consider the marriage almost incestuous, and Claudius feels he must justify it by stating that he had the approval of the courtiers and that the marriage was in the best interest of Denmark. The marriage is also suspiciously corrupt because it took place only two months after the death of King Hamlet. Those circumstances cause
Hamlet to become extremely upset at his mother for her apparent lack of mourning and helps support the idea of foul play King Hamlet’s death. Another example of the rottenness in Denmark is King Hamlet’s death. Unknown to the people of Denmark, it was Claudius who killed King Hamlet and stole his crown and his wife. Claudius had won the love of Gertrude and then murdered the King by pouring the poisonous “juice of cursed hebona”() into his ear. This poison invaded his defenseless body and “swift as quicksilver it courses through / The natural gates and alleys of the body.”() In a sense, the poison used by Claudius spreads throughout the entire country of Denmark.
Rottenness in Denmark is also seen in the ghost of King Hamlet. Just the sign of a walking ghost is a bad omen in itself, a sign that something rotten will or has taken place. The ghost has come to inform Hamlet that King Hamlet was murdered by Claudius, who deprived him of a last opportunity to confess his sins. King Hamlet tells the prince because of this he is doomed to spend his days within the purgatorial fires of his prison and roam at nights. The ghost then calls upon Hamlet to avenge the murder.
Hamlet swears that he will, which will eventually lead to the total decay of him and his uncle. Many things are rotten in the state of Denmark, and images of decay, corruption, and rottenness are common throughout the first act. In this act, most of the corruption has originated from the royalty, and the royalty is directly connected to the well-being of the state of Denmark. In that sense, the royalty resembles what Hamlet calls “.an unweeded garden / that grows to seed,”() because in an unweeded garden the weeds will eventually kill and corrupt the once healthy plants. In the 1st act of the play, the rotten royalty is set on a course that will eventually spoil the whole country and bring it to ruins.