Hamlet Writing Assignment: “Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark” Essay

November 5, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jun 19th, 2021


Many people acknowledge that William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (shortened as Hamlet) is one of the most significant and powerful works of the 16th century. The tragedy narrates the story of Prince Hamlet who intends to avenge his father’s death. This literary piece has been studied and analyzed by many scholars over the past four centuries. This discussion gives a detailed analysis of the quotation “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” from Act One of this play.

Context of the Quotation

The selected quotation is a familiar line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and is spoken by a character known as Marcellus. In Act One, Scene 4, Horatio and Hamlet are together on the castle’s battlements. As they wait patiently in the dark, they begin to hear the noises of men dancing and laughing loudly. This scene takes place a few minutes before midnight (Bastian 37). During this meeting, Hamlet explains how he is unhappy with such behaviors. According to him, excessive drinking is major malpractice that has affected the entire state of Denmark.

Within a short period, Horatio identifies the approaching ghost of Hamlet’s father (Williams 28). Hamlet decides to leave with the ghost despite the persuasion of Marcellus and Horatio. The duo is afraid that this kind of apparition might be a representation of something dangerous or evil. At that moment, Hamlets decides to follow his father’s ghost, and the two disappear. It is after this event when Marcellus uses the selected quotation to describe the predicaments facing their country. Horatio then replies to him by stating that the heavens will direct their country.

Analysis and Discussion

The selected line can be analyzed and understood by examining the issues that trouble Marcellus after witnessing the state of affairs in his country. Before uttering such words, the reader observes that Horatio and Marcellus debate whether or not to follow the ghost and Hamlet into the darkness. From this argument, it is evident that the speaker is convinced that Hamlet’s father’s ghost has become an omen for the state of Denmark (Williams 72). This is true since the ghost appears to represent something fishy and unpredictable.

It is also evident that Hamlet has a great task of taking revenge following his father’s death. The play reveals that he was killed by Claudius (Hamlet’s uncle) who wanted to become the country’s ruler. This means that his legitimacy as the ruler of this kingdom is questionable. This issue presents a moral question whereby a leader should be appointed rightfully in accordance with the stipulations and guidelines existing in the targeted country (Bastian 45). The appearance of this ghost can be described as a major problem that continues to face Denmark. The reader observes that this ghost is not going to rest until justice is served.

Before uttering these above words, Marcellus and Horatio appear to be displeased with the King’s behavior. The castle has continued to promote inappropriate practices such as dancing and overdrinking (Bastian 49). Consequently, these predicaments have ruined the entire state and made it impossible for its people to achieve most of their objectives. The play goes further to indicate that Denmark is identified as a nation of drunken people across the region (Bastian 51). This is a clear indication that there is something wrong that continues to affect Denmark.

Another perspective is that most of the events that have taken place in the country are detestable or inappropriate. For instance, the reader observes that Claudius has acquired the country’s leadership illegitimately. As the new king, he has gone further to mismanage the state, thereby increasing the levels of political and moral corruption (Williams 63). These problems explain why Horatio says that only God will redeem Denmark and restore its moral stability. All these occurrences show conclusively that Denmark is facing uncertainty or ruin.

From the above analysis, the reader observes that Shakespeare has used the selected line to describe how leaders should pursue their goals and serve their citizens. The playwright also tries to condemn any action that can affect the welfare of Denmark. The portrayal of the ghost can be studied as a warning for every person in the king’s castle (Shakespeare 84). This means that the right time has come for Claudius to accept his mistakes and be ready to face ruin. Those around Claudius must also be warned since something evil is about to occur in the state of Denmark.


From the above discussion, it is evident that Shakespeare’s Hamlet is an inspirational piece of literature that must be analyzed carefully and critically. The outlined quotation is used by Marcellus to explain how most of the things taking place in Denmark should be taken seriously than ever before. The reason for this is that things have gone wrong in the country. In conclusion, the manifestation of the ghost and its relationship with Prince Hamlet is, therefore, a clear indication that Denmark is headed in the wrong direction.

Works Cited

Bastian, Niklas. Why Did Hamlet Delay His Revenge? An Analysis of Shakespeare’s Play. GRIN Verlag, 2016.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Lerner Publishing Group, 2014.

Williams, Meg H. Hamlet in Analysis: Horatio’s Story–A Trial of Faith. 2nd ed., Karnac Books, 2014.

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