Hamlet: the Elusiveness of Certainty

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Shakespeare's Hamlet is a play of complexity and cunctation. It's central theme is the elusiveness of knowledge and certainty, and this is manifested in the fact that 4 acts of the play consist of the protagonist's hesitation and sadness, fear and anger.

From it’s outset, the play establishes uncertainty through the interrogative dialogue between Barnardo, Marcellus and Horatio. “Whos there” … “Nay Stand and unfold yourself” … “what, is Horatio there” … “A piece of him” Having established a mood of fear and uncertainty, the apparition of a ghost sees Horatio state “It harrows me with fear and Wonder”. This Antithetical placement of words heightens the paranormal and eerie setting of the play. The “portentous” Ghost acts as an omen for what is to come.

In the grandiloquent monologue where Claudius implores his subjects to accept the validity of his marriage to the Old Queen Gertrude subtly hints that the King is putting on a façade. Claudius uses many oxymoronic terms to try and reconcile the death of Old Hamlet and Claudius’ subsequent marriage to Gertrude such “With Mirth in Funeral and with dirge in Marriage”. This syllabically balanced but semantically dissonant sentence serves to highlight that there is something suspect and “Rotten” in the state of Denmark. The question of what this is, however, will recur throughout the play.

In this same way too, the relationship between the actions and internal machinations of human beings is evident in the scheming Polonius. He too is a man of little integrity and great deceit. He exhorts his son Laertes,“To thine own self be true” but at the same time enlists Reynaldo to spy on his son, stating, “Your bait of falsehood takes this Carp of truth” (2.1.61). This metaphor and Oxymoronic placement of “falsehood” and “truth” exemplifies the presence of duality in the play. He dismisses Reynaldo - “You have me, Have you not”. The uncertainity and lack of trust within the play is highlighted by the Chiastic...
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