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Duality and Appearance vs. reality in Hamlet

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Duality and Appearance vs. reality in Hamlet

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  • May 8, 2004
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Throughout history there has been a general understanding that appearances can be deceiving. A person may go through life without anyone understanding the true reality of there character. William Shakespeare, one of the greatest writers of all time, understood the relationship between appearance and reality and often gave characters two sides to their personality. In Shakespeare's tragic play, Hamlet, a young prince is left to reveal the truth of his father's death. Hamlet discovers that his father was murdered by his uncle Claudius, who recently was crowned king and married his mother. The theme that remains throughout the play is that of duality and appearance versus reality. Hamlet discovers that characters may appear to be honest and true are in reality distorted and evil. Many of the characters within the play have duality and are not the characters that they seem to be. Four of the main characters that hide behind an illusion are Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Polonius, and Claudius. In many occasions they appear to be true and sincere but in reality they are full of lies.

Throughout the play, Hamlet is left wondering who he can actually trust and turn to for help. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two of Hamlet's friends from university who give the appearance of truly caring for Hamlet:

Guildenstern: My Honored lord.

Rosencrantz: My most dear lord (Shakespeare 2.2.237-238)

In Reality, it is shown that the two are only involved because the king asked them again to find the true meaning of Hamlet's madness.

King: To draw him on to pleasures to gather,

So much as from occasion you may glean,

Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus

That, opened, lies within our remedy. (2.2.15-18)

As the play continues, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are asked again by the king to go to Hamlet and try to find the real reason for Hamlet's madness. Hamlet comes to understand the real purpose of their visit and insults them for lying in Act three...