Hamlet Symbolism

Symbolism means an artistic and poetic expression or style using figurative images and indirect ideas to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind. The reader will find significant symbolism thought the playHamlet’ which shows a variety of connotations from situation to situation and context to context. Some of the most important symbols in Hamlet are discussed below.

Symbolism in Hamlet

Symbol #1


The appearance of the ghost of Old Hamlet in the very first scene of the play symbolizes tough times are coming ahead. It signifies the presence of supernatural powers like the three witches of Macbeth. However, it represents the difficult times ahead for Hamlet as well as Claudius, making the revelation that Claudius is the murderer of Old Hamlet. Ghost also symbolizes the foreshadow of the upcoming the turmoil in Denmark as Hamlet prepares to take revenge against Claudius. It shows that the ghost is not a good but a bad omen for the state of Denmark as well as its ruler, Claudius.

Symbol #2


Flowers appear in Hamlet when Ophelia loses her mind. She starts distributing flowers to everybody she meets. She presents each flower, describing what it stands for and then moves to the next. The flowers show various features as she states that rosemary is for remembrance, pansy for thoughts and so on. Ophelia expresses her pain of the betrayal she felt by offering the flowers and describing what they symbolize. Her father’s murder and Hamlet’s taunt takes its toll on her. That is why the flowers symbolize her inner turmoil and also her faithfulness.

Symbol #3


The skull in Hamlet is of Yorick, the court’s jester. This skull is a symbol of death, decay and uselessness of a person after his death. It is a physical remnant of the dead person that is an omen of what he may have to face in the life hereafter. The skull makes Hamlet think about his own destiny and his own life after his death. It implies how man finally returns to dust. The skull reminds Hamlet that even “Imperious Caesar” is subject to death and decay. Death does not leave anybody intact or alive.

Symbol #4


Weather is another important symbol in Hamlet. It shows that the bad weather is the sign of worse situation coming ahead and good weather points to good times. However, in the first scene, Shakespeare has shown that the weather is frigid and foggy in which the ghost of Old Hamlet appears. This confusing and ambivalent weather is signifying the same situation coming ahead. Hamlet is confused like the situation that is hazy and unclear. Therefore, the good or bad weather is the sign of good or bad times in the play.

Symbol #5


Although death is in the mind of Hamlet since the play starts, it becomes an important subject when he enters the graveyard. The gravedigger plays with words when responding to Hamlet’s questions. He gives him the philosophy of life that all sort of skulls whether they are of the kings or beggars are lying there in the graveyard. He responds that all the dead persons are equal when they are stripped of their political statuses. Graveyard signifies a place where all are equal and the people working in the graveyards become insensitive to the positions and political status of the dead.

Symbol #6

The Mousetrap

The Mousetrap is the play titled as The Murder of Gonzago, which has been staged in Hamlet. Hamlet has given directions to the players and written parts of the speech delivered by the queen. The title ‘The Mousetrap’ shows that the purpose of Hamlet to insert his own ideas in the play to force his mother to confess her crime, recall her promise to her late husband or at least show signs of guilt. It is also interesting that almost all the characters in this short play are based on the real characters who are watching them on the stage. Therefore, the story is symbolical for the trap laid by Hamlet to catch the real culprit.

Symbol #7

Fencing Swords

Fencing swords in Hamlet have been used in the final scene during the duel between Laertes and Hamlet. The fencing swords point to the approach of the end of Hamlet’s quest and resultant deaths. The fencing sword is a sign of a person having courage, bravery and the will to exact revenge. As both the characters engaged in fencing swords have some cause, and also have their honors at stake, they come to fight a duel in which both are killed. Therefore, fencing swords symbolize violence and deaths in the play.

Symbol #8


Although there are two gravediggers, one of them is not only a good player of words but also a good philosopher. His responses to the questions posed by Hamlet show that he knows how death makes all equal in the graveyard. He also knows that he has dug graves of everyone who died. When digging Ophelia’s grave, they also point out to Hamlet that it doesn’t matter whether somebody has committed suicide. Their presence signifies that deaths make all people equal in spite of their positions.

Symbol #9

Hamlet’s costume changes

Throughout the play, Hamlet wears dark blue cloak to express his mourning for his dead father. As the days pass, his mother insists him to stop mourning. However, Hamlet continues to wear black clothes that keep him apart. It symbolizes that Hamlet doesn’t care about outward appearance and wanted to remember his father until he seeks revenge. Hamlet’s black costume shows his anguish.

Symbol #10


Poison is a recurring symbol in the play that appears in various scenes specifically when the ghost appears. The ghost explains to the young Hamlet the henbane is poured into the ears of Old Hamlet to kill him. This poison killed him instantly, blocking his blood. Therefore, poisoning a person here in Hamlet symbolizes betrayal, deception, and treachery. This symbol of poison is significant and exposes Claudius evil character.