Death is a major theme in Shakespeare’s masterpiece Hamlet. You mentioned that you are already familiar with the events that led up to Hamlet’s imminent downfall and culminated in his death, so we’re not going to analyze the reasons why Hamlet died, nor we are going to elaborate how he died. Instead, we’re going to focus on three key points which can be concluded from the prince’s tragic death.
The first important element which can be revealed by analyzing Hamlet’s downfall is the fact that, through this character, Shakespeare revealed his own obsession with death and the afterlife. From the very beginning of the play, Hamlet shows an unhealthy and morbid fascination with death, which is closely tied to his thirst for revenge. Shakespeare ponders the idea of life after death, but most importantly, he reveals his (and Hamlet’s) uncertainty and fear of the unknown and of death itself. Thus, the reader begins to wonder whether death will bring peace to one’s soul—maybe it will be an experience that will be far worse than the life we lead on Earth. Shakespeare never explains what really happened after his (anti)hero died, which begs the question: Did Hamlet finally find his peace?
The second major point is the dilemma of whether or not death triumphs over all good and evil. Shakespeare masterfully contemplates the morality of death and whether or not suicide is an action that presents a just and morally acceptable way to end one’s suffering—is it, instead, a selfish and cowardly way to ultimately escape the much undesirable and troubled reality in which one lives? Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Shakespeare kills almost all of his characters: to showcase his way of thinking that death will, essentially, conquer us all. It is the one thing that controls our fate, the ultimate foe that cannot be defeated.
Or, maybe, death isn’t a foe at all. In the play, Hamlet’s tragic death symbolizes an end to his “sea of troubles.” So, maybe death is the fairest and most honorable companion that we all meet in the end. No matter our status in life, we are all equal in death. Death doesn’t care about our wrongdoings or our good and heroic deeds. Both sinners and saints will be judged the same way. Essentially, Shakespeare muses that death is the only certainty in life, and the two things that separate one person’s downfall from another are the notions of why we die and how we die; and we know why and how Hamlet dies.
Finally, despite his deep philosophy on death and its moral significance and righteousness, I believe that Shakespeare delivers a completely different and unique point with Hamlet’s death. I think, essentially, what he’s trying to convey is that we are not individually special; one life is not more important than another. We are no one’s judge or executioner. Shakespeare urges us to notice Hamlet’s gradual loss of ethics and morality. Hamlet is right to seek a resolution, and even vengeance, for his father’s death; however, it is wrong for him to think that he is the only one who walks the path of righteousness. In fact, he becomes so blinded and obsessed with revenge that he becomes this vain, self-centered individual who is no different than those he considers “evil.” This is why his death is so important: not only does he gain this much-wanted closure for his father’s death and, in a way, avenges him, but he redeems his soul as well. He acknowledges his weaknesses and finally accepts his fate.
To further strengthen his point, Shakespeare tells us that death, aside from obviously putting an end to our existence, will also destroy our meaning. This is why he gives importance to Horatio’s character. He indirectly tells us that Hamlet’s death would have been insignificant and easily forgotten if Hamlet mistreated and continued to neglect everyone while he was alive. Horatio will remember his friend, and he will continue to tell his story, because it is worthy of telling. Basically, this is Shakespeare’s way of telling us to focus on our lives instead of obsessing over other people, and over-analyzing death. We must pay attention to our environment and the people who matter to us the most, so that, in the end, we will have someone who will tell our story too.