Question: “Nothing but deceit, betrayal and failure.” To what extent does Shakespeare deal with these themes in Hamlet?
As consistent with all Shakespearean tragedies, Shakespeare uses the fatal flaws of the central characters to bring about their downfall which ultimately leads to their death. In Hamlet, deceit and betrayal initiates the failures of the main characters, particularly Prince Hamlet, King Claudius and Ophelia. These themes are pivotal to their actions and are used to expose the flaws of the characters that lead to their downfall and eventually, death.
Shakespeare begins the play with the depressed, yet innocent Hamlet, who is in mourning for the recently dead king, his father. He is angry at his mother, for quickly marrying the new King, also his uncle. He feels betrayed by his mother because she was able to forget her previous husband so quickly and easily. He is melancholic because of his father’s death but more because of his mother’s “speedy marriage”. In his fury, he stereotypes all women as weak, “Frailty, thy name is woman.” He is uncomfortable with what he feels is an unacceptable situation and he senses, “It is not, nor can it come to, good.” Despite his negative feelings, his emotions are controlled and he does not even consider the possibility that his father was murdered and he is portrayed as blameless and wide open to deceit.
Shakespeare creates the first twist of the play when Hamlet meets the ghost, his “father’s spirit”. The ghost divulges to a shocked Hamlet that his father was victim of “murder most foul” and urges the prince to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” He continues, “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown,” thus revealing to Hamlet the betrayal and deceit of Claudius. Hamlet is outraged and disgusted by what he learns and promises the ghost, “Thy commandment all alone shall live within the book and volume of my brain.” He will seek nothing but revenge and he...