In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the theme of corruption and decay is a recurring theme that is explored through the use of time and place. Shakespeare uses time and place in order to create a dystopian and corrupt Denmark, and further uses time and place as an instrument to gradually illuminate and uncover the corruptive morality of the personalities within Hamlet. The overarching use of the central setting of foul Denmark, alongside the careful sequence of plot and character development eventuates in the conveyance of a corruption that is as a result of the players with Denmark, and Denmark itself. .
Shakespeare uses the setting of dystopian Denmark to establish the basis of corruption in Hamlet as a result of the place and time – Denmark. In Act 1, Denmark is illustrated as an atmosphere of suspicion, this is seen in Act 1 Scene 2 as Francisco states that due to the metaphorical "bitter cold" nature of Denmark, he has become "sick at heart" leading to the representation of the state as an infectious root for corruption, further expounded as Marcellus illustrates with visual imagery "something is rotten in the state of Denmark." The state of dystopian Denmark sets the tone and melancholic mood for the entirety of the play, Shakespeare's timing of establishing the play in the opening acts as "rotten" and "unweeded" serves as a basis for which corruption is further developed. Shakespeare also uses the supernatural – a sign of ill-fate during the time of Elizabethan era - in the King's ghost to accentuate the disastrous circumstance of Denmark and the "strange eruption to our state" highlighting a break in the chain of being within the court of Denmark in which Claudius himself recognizes and describes Denmark as "the corrupted current of this world." It is through the creation of a central, unpleasant location of Denmark within the founding scenes that Shakespeare is able to craft an interpretation of corruption with Hamlet.