The words “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” are spoken by Marcellus. This statement could refer to many things about Denmark that are “rotten” as the play is full of disputes and corruption. The play starts off with a mental conflict in the minds of Horatio, Bernardo and Marcellus when they see a ghost and are unsure of what it is and what it represents. Later on in the play, when they take Hamlet to see the ghost who they believe is his father, they comment how he comes in such a “questionable form” and ask him if he is a “spirit of health” or a “goblin damn’d”.
They do not understand whether he is good or evil, why he is there or what he wants from them and all these questions are the root of the state of turmoil their minds enter. The ghost reveals his objective to Hamlet, telling him that “if thou didst ever thy dear father love, revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”. This puts pressure on Hamlet to avenge his beloved father and although he is determined to do it, he does not feel that he is fit enough – this adds to all the internal conflict that he is already overwhelmed with.
Hamlet speaks his first important soliloquy (Act 1 Scene 2) after being asked by Gertrude and Claudius not to return to university at Wittenburg but to remain in Denmark, presumably against his wishes. Here, Hamlet contemplates suicide for the first time. He wants his flesh to “melt” and wishes God had not made “self-slaughter” a sin, saying that the world is “weary, stale, flat and unprofitable”. This suggests that his father’s death has really put everything into perspective for him, and he no longer cares about the now-insignificant things.
In essence, suicide seems like a covetable alternative to life in a painful, empty world, but the option is closed to him because the Church law forbids it. He describes the world as an “unweeded garden” because he feels that in his father’s absence everything has changed for the worse. He sustains the metaphor saying that the only things to grow in this “unweeded garden” are things “rank and gross in nature”, once again revealing his doleful outlook on life. All this is part of the internal conflict burning in Hamlet’s mind between the desire to “self-slaughter” and the stipulation of the Church law.
He then goes on to describe the causes of his suffering, specifically his intense disgust at his mother’s marriage to Claudius. He deplores the haste of their marriage, noting that the shoes his mother wore as she “follow’d” his “poor father’s body” at his funeral were not at all worn out before the wedding. Later on in the scene he also comments that the food which was served hot at the funeral “Did coldly furnish the marriage tables”. His mother’s betrayal affected him deeply, causing him to touch upon the important motifs of misogyny, crying “Frailty, thy name is woman! . He had nothing but high regards for his mother but after she had disappointed him so greatly, he had lost faith in all women. These negative feelings towards his mother are the cause of familial conflict between both him and his mother, and him and Claudius as he feels he is also to blame. He compares Claudius to his father, exclaiming how “excellent a king” he was while describing Claudius as a bestial “satyr”, which was believed to be a creature with a male human form, but with the characteristics of a goat, who loves wine and indulges in sensual pleasure.
As he runs through his description of Gertrude and Claudis’ marriage, he states how his mother moved with such “dexterity” to “incestuous sheets” and the ominous omen that the marriage represents for the state of Denmark, that “It is not nor it cannot come to good”. There is more familial conflict in the play but this time between Ophelia and her father Lord Polonius as he warns her to be wary of Hamlet, but she is already smitten with him. He sees his daughter as “green” and “unsifted” meaning immature, inexperienced and naive. He commands her to look after herself more “dearly” or she’ll “tender” him a “fool. There is a degree of ambiguity here as this could either mean that Ophelia will be viewed as a fool in his eyes, or she will make a fool out of him. Ophelia reassures him that Hamlet has “importuned” her with love in an “honourable fashion” but Polonius continues the debate, comparing the situation to the way “springes” catch woodcocks. Woodcocks are easily snared so by saying this he was stating the fact the Ophelia had been foolishly caught but Hamlet. He explains to her how, the way he sees it, Hamlet is “young” with a “larger tether”, allowing him more freedom to stray. Appearance vs. eality is another major conflict in Hamlet. In scene 2, Gertrude asks why the king’s death “seems” so personal to Hamlet, to which he replies “I know not ‘seems’”. He clarifies that he is not just upset for the sake of being upset and that he feels sincerely sorrowful. He insists that neither his black clothes, heavy sighs, tears, downcast eyes nor any other displays of grief can show the depth of what he really feels. He informs his mother that it’s true all these things “seem” like grief, since a person could use them to feign grief if they wanted to – like “actions that a man might play”.
Hamlet has much more heartfelt misery bottled up inside him than visible on the surface – the “customary suits of solemn black” and “fruitful river in the eye” are just a hint of it all. The political conflict between Norway and Denmark provides a backdrop to the main action in the play. The two countries are about to go to war, but Horatio has had a premonition of “some strange eruption” to the state. King Hamlet, was a great rival of Fortinbras, the king of Norway but old Fortinbras’s young son, also called Fortinbras is bold, but unproven, has gathered a bunch of thugs from the lawless outskirts of the country.
For some food, they’re eager to take on the tough enterprise of securing the lands the elder Fortinbras lost. That’s why the people of Denmark have been making “brazen cannons” and preparing for war. Claudius has now taken the throne and seems over-confident about the war, commenting that Fortinbras “holds a weak supposal of our worth”, ending his speech by dismissively saying “so much for him. ” However, later in the play the truth is revealed – Claudius prides himself in hosting late night parties, and draining his “draughts of Rhenish”.
Hamlet now faces a behavioral conflict: He wants to stay loyal to Denmark but finds it difficult when his countrymen are acting so shamelessly. Hamlet despairs at how other countries criticize them for their audacious partying and is ashamed at how they are called “drunkards” and how their noble titles are insulted. He compares the state to someone who has “some vicious mole of nature in them”. He says it happens sometimes that, however talented and full of good “virtues” these people may be, one little defect can make them look incompetent to others – A tiny spot of evil casts “doubt” on their good qualities and ruins their reputation.