Deceit in Shakespeare's Hamlet
In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, deceit is a major cause of the downfall of Hamlet. This is demonstrated in three instances in the play. First, Polonius spies on Hamlet while he is talking privately with his mother Gertrude. Second, Claudius sends Hamlet away to England. Finally, Laertes and Claudius scheme to kill Hamlet.
The first way that deceit leads to the eventual downfall of Hamlet is Polonius' spying. In Act III, scent iii, Polonius decides to help the king by spying on Hamlet and his mother when he says, "My lord, [the king] he's going to his mother's closet/Behind the arras I'll convey myself to hear the process" (III. iii. 28-29). In Act III, scene iv, Polonius gets his chance and listens to a conversation between Hamlet and his mother, hoping that Hamlet will confide something in his mother that could be used against him. Unfortunately, for Polonius, Hamlet hears him behind the curtain. Thinking that Polonius is actually a spying King Claudius, he immediately stabs and kills him. This event contributes to Hamlet's downfall because Claudius is able to use it as an excuse to send Hamlet away to England. Officially, the king sends Hamlet away, "for thine especial safety," (IV. iii. 37) with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern because the murder might earn him some enemies. Privately though, Claudius plans to have Rosencrantz and Guildenstern go with Hamlet to convey a message to the King
of England that Hamlet is being executed. In addition, by sending Hamlet away, Claudius is protecting himself because Hamlet is, "loved of the distracted multitude [the public]" (IV. iii. 4). Furthermore, if Hamlet were to show the people that Claudius had killed Hamlet's father, then they might believe him, and as a result, overthrow and kill Claudius. Thus, the downfall is that Claudius wants Hamlet dead. In addition, if Claudius' plan works, then Hamlet dies and his father's death would not be avenged. Moreover, if...
Cited: Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Shane Weller. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1992.
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