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Appearance vs. Reality in Hamlet To Be or Not to Be? Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the tale of a young prince determined to uncover the truth about his father’s recent death. Hamlet’s uncle (and also the deceased king’s brother), Claudius, marries his mother the queen, and therefore, takes the throne. In the beginning of the story, Hamlet is told by the apparition of his dead father that it was Claudius who in fact murdered him. The theme that remains consistent throughout the tragedy is appearance versus reality. The characters introduced to us throughout the play appear to be pure and honest, but in reality are infested with evil.
They deceitfully hide behind a mask of integrity. Four main dishonest characters which are found to be disguised with righteousness are Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and the freshly crowned king Claudius. The first impression presented by these characters are ones of truth, honor, and morality; they are all plagued by evilness and lies in reality. Their appearances serve as obstacles for Hamlet as he struggles to discover the hidden truth. The king’s royal assistant, Polonius, has a great preoccupation with appearance. He continually gives the impression of being an affectionate and caring person.
He is introduced as a father who deeply cares for his son, Laertes. Polonius speaks to Laertes with advice which sounds sincere, yet in truth, is rehearsed, empty, and without feeling. He gives the advice to make others believe he is a strong, loving, role-model type of a father. He is similar to a politician. He speaks strong, influential words, but does not actually mean what he is saying sincerely in the least. Polonius grants his son his blessing to leave Denmark: “And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. 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.
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee! ” (Hamlet 46). Within his speech to Laertes, Polonius advises him to not borrow from others, to remain true to himself, and not to lie. Polonius appears to be a caring and trusting father when in fact he sends a spy after Laertes to follow and keep an eye on him. This demonstrates his distrust for his son. He is not the confident father in which he is shown to be. His speech was rehearsed to give the effect that he actually cares and is trustworthy of his son. Polonius further adds to the theme of appearance versus reality when he orders his daughter, Ophelia, to stop seeing Hamlet.
He mischieviously lies to her, claiming that Hamlet does not love her, that he only lusts for her: “Ay, springs to catch woodcocks. I do know, When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul” (Hamlet 47). Throughout the play, Polonius is seen as a warm and tender parent. Behind the mask, he is a devious, lying, and manipulative person. Polonius obviously contributes to the theme of appearance versus reality by illustrating that his virtuous appearance is not true in nature, because underneath the facade he is someone completely different.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two of Hamlet’s closest friends from childhood. They follow the king’s instructions when asked to figure out what is troubling Hamlet. The two go to Hamlet with the illusion of being “friends” with Hamlet, but in truth are simply there to abide by the king’s orders. Their inquiry of his problems are not sincere. There is some irony in this situation; the boys are asked to discover the truth while hiding in a lie of pretending to be Hamlet’s true friends. As Hamlet realizes their underhanded motives, he states, ” A dream itself is but a shadow” (Hamlet 73).
Hamlet understands that they are not the “good friends” he assumed they were. The king sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern again to try to gain an explanation for Hamlet’s awkward behavior. Hamlet recognizes their intentions once again and proceeds to insult them: “It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with your finger and thumb, give it breath with your mouth… ” (Hamlet 106). It is evident to see how these two “buddies” of Hamlet add to the appearance versus reality theme. The conduct wonderfully presented by Claudius, the new king of Denmark, illustrates him as an honest and heartfelt man.
In Act One, Claudius demonstrates his great skill at public speaking as he is in the presence of council: ” Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death The memory be green, and that it us befitted To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom To be contracted in one brow of woe” (Hamlet 33). The reality of the situation is that Claudius cares little for his brother and his death. He is just happy to be at the head of the thrown; something he had previously longed for. He speaks respectfully and honorably of him and on his behalf only to be looked upon as a loving brother.
In Act One, Hamlet directly insults Claudius, and yet the king continues the front of being caring and truly affectionate towards his nephew. A normal king (or any authority figure) would become angry an punish anyone who would degrade them in any way. Claudius demonstrates to his council that he is understanding of Hamlet’s grievances over his deceased father. He advises Hamlet that grieving can be harmful and not healthy. He reinforces that it is respectable and honorable of Hamlet to morn for his father: ” Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
To give these mourning duties to your father. But you must know your father lost a father, That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound In filial obligation for some term To do obsequious sorrow. But to persever In obstinate condolement is a course Of impious stubbornness” (Hamlet 37). Claudius further makes it difficult for Hamlet to reveal the truth about the murder of his father when Claudius announces that Hamlet shall be next in line for the throne of Denmark. This demonstrates Claudius’ apparent love and trust in Hamlet, that he would allow him to take his place when he dies.
He seems to be an honorable and virtuous man when he declares this: ” You are the most immediate to our throne, and with no less nobility of love than that which dearest father bears his son do I impart toward you” (Hamlet 37). All in all, Claudius appears to be a trustworthy king who would do anything for his kingdom. In truth, although, he is a selfish and greedy brother. He desired all his brother once had. He coveted his wife and tried to be a father-figure for his son. He wanted all being a king had to offer, and he achieved his position through the murder of his own flesh and blood.
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Behind his pure and moral mask, laid a monstrous and deceitful man. By reading the tragedy, Hamlet, one can reveal that the four characters mentioned in this essay (Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Claudius) are completely two-faced. They follow the theme of appearance versus reality specifically. Each give the first impression of being true to their intentions, honest, and pure. It is uncovered throughout the play that they are all devious and cunning. These characters are impediments to Hamlet, as he fights to discover the truth which haunts him.
Author: Brandon Johnson
Appearance vs. Reality in Hamlet – Essay
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Appearance Vs. Reality Essay
1619 Words7 Pages
In Hamlet, one of Shakespeare's greatest plays, the young prince of Denmark must uncover the truth about his fathers death. Hamlet shows a play that tells the story of a young prince whose father recently died. Hamlets uncle Claudius marries his mother the queen and takes the throne. As the play is told Hamlet finds out his father was murdered by the recently crowned king. The theme that remains constant throughout the play is appearance versus reality. Things within the play appear to be true and honest but in reality are infested with evil. Many of the characters within the play hide behind a mask of falseness. Four of the main characters that hid behind this mask are Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and King Claudius. From behind…show more content…
In reality Polonius lies and manipulates people. Polonius helps contribute to the theme appearance verses reality by showing how his appearance is not his true nature; behind the mask there lies someone totally different.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two of Hamlets childhood friends who, when asked by the king, try to find out what is troubling the young prince. Both help to contribute to the theme by showing their appearance of being Hamlets friends. The pair go to Hamlet pretending to be his friends when in truth they are only there because the king sent them to find the truth. There is some irony within the twins, they are asked by the king to find out the truth by hiding within a lie, by pretending to be his friend. Hamlet knows that the purpose for their visit is to dig into his soul to find the real reason for his actions as of late. As the play continues the twins are asked again by the king to go to Hamlet and try again to find the real reason for Hamlets behavior. Hamlet insults them at every chance knowing they are lying to him about there purpose of the visit. Hamlet Accuses Rosencrantz of playing him like a flute with these lines: “Tis as easy as lying; govern these ventages with you finger and thumb, give it breath with your mouth”...Act III
As the melodrama continues Hamlet goes with the twins to reclaim money that another state owes Denmark. Hamlet is sent by the king to retrieve