Hamlet understands that revenge would satisfy his father but sees that Claudius has destroyed his life and it cannot be reanimated. He cannot comprehend the pointlessness of two wrongs do not make a right: thus exposing the fundamental futility of the revenge code. The concept of duty to avenge is blurred by morality.

Power and Corruption

By nature, Hamlet does not like exerting force but is given power by the Ghost to punish Claudius. Action is largely on a personal mental plane. Hamlet is equivalent to Laertes; they both assault sovereignty rather than establish the power of the aristocracy over the subject. Fortinbras represents aristocratic blood and the subsequent ability and desire to exercise power. Power given to the wrong people is the cause of corruption and it stems from having the wrong king at the head of Denmark. A centralised authority is dragging people down to its own level and the corruption has spread through the whole of Denmark and is not solely within Claudius.

Corruption is depicted as a disease: "rank corruption mining all within / Infects unseen (III.iv.149). Indeed, when Hamlet begins to show himself to be a true threat to Claudius, the king calls for "The present death of Hamlet" because "like a hectic in my blood he rages, / and thou [England] must cure me" (IV.iii.65).

The play is saturated with corruption: there is corruption in the mental state of Hamlet, Hamlet believes there is corruption in women, friends are not friends but spies, the king is killed by his own brother and duels of honour are fought with bated swords. As we know from Marcellus, "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" (I.iv.90). There is apparent throughout the play a gradual dissolution of the structure of the royal court and of society in general. Death is the only way to cleanse the corruption and to allow the decaying structure to dissolve and for a new, untainted one to be created by Fortinbras who enters the stage at the end backed by the strength of an army highlighting the ultimate physicality of power. This echoes the physical duel of Hamlet and Laertes which reiterates Hamlet’s realisation during the gravediggers’ scene (V.i), that physical corruption of the body is man’s inevitable end: "To what base uses we must return" (V.i.183). It is only by admitting his own share in the corruption and meaninglessness of the concept of power, that Hamlet can purge the state of the source of its corruption, the king. Like the concept of the revenger and the revenged, power and corruption are intrinsically inseparable and in continual motion.

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