Having not killed Claudius, Hamlet then kills Polonius. He says that God wanted him to do so but that it is ironic that his soul is still damned even though God wanted him to do it: “I do repent: but Heaven hath pleas’d it so, To punish me with this, and this with me, That I must be their scourge and minister. ” 2″The word “scourge” carried powerful overtones, suggesting someone chosen by God to deliver just retribution. The person selected, however, was not necessarily free from guilt himself, nor would punishment of the guilty lead to his own salvation”
Hamlet thinks that Polonius deserves to die because he was spying on him and listening to his and his mother’s conversation. Hamlet appears to be relatively unconcerned about the death of Polonius because he is talking to his mother about her relationship with his uncle: “in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, Stew’d in corruption, honeying and making love Over the nasty sty! ” Hamlet tells his mother that she is committing incest using vivid but mixed metaphors to show his complete disgust for what she is doing repulses him.
Hamlet goes on to preach at his mother, Gertrude about her soul being damned and going to hell. He uses religious language to try and save her soul and ger her back from Claudius: “Mother for the love of grace, Lay not that flattering unicorn to your soul, That not your trepass but my madness speaks: It will but skin and film the ulcerous place… ” He is both fighting to comply with the ghost’s instructions not to let her “leave to heaven” his mother’s soul. He is anxious that Heaven should not find it lacking. He wants her to redeem himself before it is too late.
So strong are his beliefs in the afterlife that he wants to save her from Hell. I consider the conclusion of the play satisfactory in relation to Hamlet’s desire for revenge. However it is Claudius who suggests the fencing match and the poisoned wine, so Hamlet’s revenge is really brought on by Claudius. Had Claudius not suggested the fencing match I do not know if Hamlet would have carried out the killing having procrastinated throughout the play, using various excuses not to act. In the last religious reference in the play we are told that Horatio wants Hamlets soul to go to Heaven: “Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest! ”
Whether we agree with him or not depends upon how much we sympathize with Hamlet’s agonies of conscience. Laertes, Claudius and Gertrude’s soul will all go to Hell as Laertes and Claudius have both committed murder none of them prayed before they died so their souls have not been absolved. Ophelia is seen as a victim of circumstance but is the one who least deserves a Christian burial, according to the religious beliefs of the play.
I think that the modern audience would view this as wrong but by religious ethics of the time she had no more right to go to Heaven then someone who has committed murder. This seems harsh until one realises that, to the Shakespeareans, she had committed “self-slaughter” or murder on herself. In conclusion I think that both the contemporary and modern audiences view the subject of death and the afterlife very differently. The play “Hamlet” does not preach Christianity but allows us to make our own judgements and interpretations of the views voiced.
However, an understanding of the context in which the play was written, enhances our appreciation of both its and Hamlet’s views. 3″This tragedy does not insist on Christian judgements, but it does bring them into reckoning and leaves an audience to make what they will of them” 1 Peter Hall, discussing his 1965 production of Hamlet in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre 1 Peter Hall, discussing his 1965 production of Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre 2 Beaumont and fletcher , The Maid’s Tragedy 3 Shakespeare The Tragedies by John Russell Brown Charlotte Milgate.