Deception and reality in Hamlet

Subject: Literature
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 6
Word count: 1509
Topics: Hamlet, Plays, Theatre, William Shakespeare

One of the primary theme that is evident in the play Hamlet is the difference that is present between incidents that occur in reality and things that appear to be. It is integral to explore the different approaches that are employed in differentiating the lies and truth that are presented in the play. The theme of appearance and reality is greatly interwoven in the play since the primary characters of the play are observed to conceal themselves behind a mask to hide their actual intentions. This is considered a primary approach of different characters to reveal the thoughts of other characters in the play. In Act 1 Scene 2, Gertrude is observed to inquire whether Hamlet is in mourning around 60das after his father passed away. “Why seems it so particular with thee?” Hamlet reacts by noting, “Seems, madam? Nay, it is, I know not ‘seems” (1.2.75-76). There is an evident differentiation between what “seems” ,and the reality “is” of the different situations that are feature in the play. Every character that is present in the play is constantly seeking information on the thoughts of different characters, in contrast to the pretentious thoughts that are displayed by different characters in the play. The different characters in the play, through constant plotting and spying, demonstrate the theme of deception.

Hamlet chooses to be considered mad by other characters in the play, particularly when in public. The question of whether or not he becomes mad is another debate. This enables him to hide his actual intentions; however, he reveals his intentions to the public. The primary reason Hamlet hides his sanity is to enable him to kill Claudius due to the defence that he is insane. Therefore, Hamlet is observed to demonstrate an increased disgust and hatred towards Ophelia to ensure that Claudius and Polonius are convinced that he has gone mad after rejection of his love by Ophelia.

Claudius is also observed to demonstrate a significant level of deception. Claudius represents a cowardly, duplicitous and conniving politician. In addition, Claudius is evidently the master if hypocrisy and deception in comparison to the different characters that are featured in the play. Claudius deceives the individuals that are around him by hiding behind the perception that he is just, gentle and concerned as a King. Marcellus notes, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Act III, Scene I; 58-62). This is in reference to the greater connection that is present between the health of the state and the moral legitimacy of the ruler. This statement reveals the declining state of the state. Moreover, he deceives the other characters in the play that he is grieving for the death of his brother. Claudius also deceives the rest of the characters in the play that he cares about his people, including his stepson. In contrast, it is integral to note that Claudius hides an extremely dark secret and demonstrates fear due to Hamlet’s madness, however, it is evident that this is motivated by his own wellbeing in contrast to the apparent madness that is demonstrated by Hamlet. Using this perception, Claudius employs his pawns such as Rosencrantz and Polonius to act as spies and investigates the on goings behind Hamlet’s insanity and his true intention in reference to the other characters in the play.

It makes sense that Polonius displays a loyal and true character as a servant to the Kingdom thus deceiving the different characters in the play. In reality, Polonius is engaged in constant spring and prying around other people’s affairs. Polonius is demonstrated as a character that enjoys the thrill that is brought about by deceit. His commitment towards deceiving the different characters in the play is demonstrated when he sends his son, Laertes, to ensure that he does not appear like a fool himself. Polonius notes, “This above all, –to thine own self be true; And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man” (Act 1, Scene 3; 78-80). This demonstrates the most significant advice that Polonius offers to his son, Laertes. This proceeds to demonstrate the reality in numerous households. However, Polonius proceeds to deceive his son later in the play. Polonius deceives individuals into believing that he is a caring and trustworthy father, in contrast, he is hypocritical and incredibly selfish and demonstrates dishonourable intentions. This is also showed by the subtle allusion that is demonstrated by Hamlet to the scandalous affairs that he holds with his mistresses.

Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are also observed to deceive Hamlet by posing as concerned friends. However, their actual intention is revealed as they attempt to get information on the actions by Hamlet. This reveals the deception that is present in friendship, which should be based on honesty and trust. Guildenstern and Rosencrantz manipulate friendship to gain the trust of Hamlet and prompt him into revealing intimate details on the cause of his madness

Ophelia, in the quest to investigate the reason for Hamlet’s madness, appears to neglect Hamlet based on her volition. This serves as a bait to reveal the reason for Hamlet’s madness. Therefore, there is evident deception since Ophelia adopts a character that is not inherently hers to participate in the investigation of the primary cause of madness in Hamlet.

As demonstrated in this discussion, it is evident that the play is filled with incidents that demonstrate deception, lies and deceit. There is a constant differentiation between the actual events that take place in the play showing what appears to be and what is real. Due to the constant deception by the different characters in the play, the play is laced with lies, corruption and ominous intentions. This leads to the tragic and unanticipated demise of all the primary characters that are featured in the play, while excluding Horatio that does not participate in the constant deception that is demonstrated by the characters in the play.

Hamlet takes deception a step further. Hamlet not only plots to discover the thoughts of other individuals but also peers into his own thoughts and poses religious and philosophical questions about death and life. Hamlet is constantly obsessed with the revelation of reality. However, Hamlet becomes obsessed with reality that he neglects taking action. Moreover, Hamlet is prompted to hide his reality behind the appearance of madness to prove the real and false things. Hamlet discovers that closer examination of incidents and events results in a decline in the coherence and reality of the different events in the immediate environment. Hamlet notes ““To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them” (Act III, Scene I; 58-62). This presents a significant statement in English speech, where Hamlet seeks to explore his inner being and the moral correctness of suicide. Hamlet’s tendency of philosophizing events is demonstrated in this speech.

Hamlet notes “Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift. As meditation or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge” (Act 1, Scene 5; 37). Hamlet seems eager for revenge; however, he is reluctant to kill Claudius. Numerous analyses of the play are observed to primarily focus on the impact of the indecisiveness showed by Hamlet. However, it is clear that there is an association between reality and appearance. Moreover, the play shows that the world is based on numerous primary inconsistencies that people disregard; also, the failure to acknowledge the inconsistencies permits them to act. Hamlet is inhibited by his inability to differentiate reality and deception. “O horrible, O horrible, most horrible! If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not. Let not the royal bed of Denmark be. A couch for luxury and damnèd incest. But, howsoever thou pursuest this act, Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven. And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge. To prick and sting her.” (Act 1, Scene 5; 87-95). Hamlet does not keep his promise to stay off Gertrude’s “damned incest”.

The play serves as a principal example of the impact of deception in the contemporary society. The play shows an example of the grave damage and dangers that are inherent in lying and deception. The theme is relevant and perfectly relatable since the dangers and results of deception are clearly demonstrated through showing the impact of deception on relationships and associations among individuals in the society. There are various examples that can be referenced in the contemporary society such as lying o parents, cheating in relationships and creating friendships that are not based on loyalty, honesty and trust. Shakespeare’s play clearly illustrates the primary impact and result of deception and lying, which result in the creation of an environment that favours corruption, shame, guilt and mistrust. Only bad things are observed to result from deception, which consist of damaged associations and relationships.

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  1. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. 1st ed. [Auckland, N.Z.]: Floating Press, 2008. Print.
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