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...
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