October 13, 2012
Not Everything is What it Seems in Denmark
In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there is a horrendous catastrophe that revolves around Hamlet, the prince of Denmark. Hamlet involves romance, disastrous events, and death. Throughout the play, Hamlet is a prince who fails to take action whenever he needs to, leads to everyone around him getting hurt and in the end, he himself gets hurt. When his father died, he knew that his death was not natural, but he had to make sure he was correct before he avenges his father’s death. When the ghost of Old King Hamlet told Hamlet that King Claudius murdered him just to take the throne, Hamlet vowed he would stop at nothing until his father’s death was avenged, which lead to many deaths. The play revolves around the theme of “Appearance vs. Reality” because of the ways characters try to hide their true intent and how the characters use deception by spying and plotting on each other.
A way Hamlet revolves around the theme of “Appearance vs. Reality” because of the way characters hide their true intent. In Act III scene I, Polonius was talking about Hamlet’s love for Ophelia when he says, “We are oft to blame in this/‘Tis too much proved- that with devotion’s visage/And pious action/we do sugar o’er/The devil himself” (3.1.52-55). After Polonius gives Ophelia the prayer book to pretend to read it, Polonius reflects to Claudius about how often people who appear innocent are trying to hide their new intentions. This leads Claudius to talk to himself, “O, tis too true./ How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience./ The harlot’s cheek, beautied with plastering art,/ Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it/ Than is my deed to my most painted word./ O heavy burden!” (3.1.56-61). Claudius was talking about the duplicity to the readers and how evil he really is. Polonius appears to care about Hamlet’s mental state, but in reality, he is an agent for Claudius and will do anything to make Claudius happy. Claudius admits how he is a murderer, but he cannot change what he has done.
A way Hamlet revolves around the theme of “Appearance vs. Reality” because of the way characters hide their true intent. In Act I scene ii, Queen Gertrude asks why Hamlet is still depressed two months after his father died. Hamlet responds when he says, “Seems, madam? Nay, it is, I know not ‘seems’” (1.2.75). What Hamlet says is crucial to the play because throughout the story, every character is trying to figure out what other characters are thinking instead of what the characters are pretending to think. In Act I, scene v, the ghost of Old King Hamlet tells his son who murders him when he says, “Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth, / the serpent that did sting thy father’s life/ Now wears his crowns” (1.5.43-45). The ghost reveals that King Claudius murdered him and this surprise Hamlet because everyone thought that Claudius was a nice guy, but in reality he is not. This leads Hamlet to talk to himself when he says, “And therefore as a stranger…at your most need help you/Swear” (1.5.185-201). Hamlet is asking himself philosophical questions about life and death. In these lines, Hamlet’s thought of what is real has three effects: he gets so caught up into reality that he is unable to react in order to prove his obsession, he has to hide reality in an appearance of madness, and the more he looks, the less real everything is to him. Hamlet reveals that he will pretend to be crazy to hide his true intent so that people will not suspect his plans to find the murderer of his father. These quotes fit to the theme of “Appearance vs. Reality” because every time an event occurs, it leads into another thought or plan about appearance, reality, or even both. From these lines, the readers understand bits of information about Hamlet.
Another way Hamlet revolves around the theme of “Appearance vs. Reality” because of the way characters hide their true intent. In Act III scene ii, Hamlet devises a plan to have the players perform a play called “Mousetrap”. When he sees King Claudius’s reaction to the play, Hamlet has proof that Claudius is the murderer and when he meets Claudius, Hamlet says, “What, frighted with false fire?” (3.2.255). King Claudius responds by saying, “Give me some light. Away!”(3.2.258). From Claudius’s line, Hamlet and the reader can tell that the murder of the king in the play startles Claudius enough for him to stop the play. Since it affects Claudius so much, Hamlet confirms his belief that King Claudius murdered his own brother. This moment ties into the theme of “Appearance vs. Reality” because the appearance of the murder of the king in the play parallels to the action Claudius took in reality. After the play ended, Claudius goes into the chapel to pray. “O my offence is rank…like a man to double business bound” (3.3.37-42). Hamlet sees Claudius and plans to kill him, but when he notices that Claudius is praying, he realizes that if he killed him at that moment, then Claudius would go to heaven because his soul would be clean of his sins. Hamlet thinks that Claudius is confessing his sins, but in reality he was not.
A third way Hamlet revolves around the theme of “Appearance vs. Reality” is the ways characters use deception to spy and plot on each other. After Hamlet realizes that Claudius murdered Old Hamlet, Hamlet says, “Here, as never, before, so help you mercy…So grace and mercy at your most need help you” (1.5.187-199). Hamlet devises this plan so everyone else can think that he is crazy when in reality, he is fine so he can focus on avenging his father. If he were to openly try to figure out who killed his father, then everyone, including Claudius, will become suspicious. To prevent this, Hamlet pretends to be crazy in order to make his plans unnoticeable. After Hamlet tells Claudius where Polonius’s body is, Claudius tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern “Our sovereign process/which imports at full/ By letters congruing to that effect/ The present death of Hamlet” (4.3.64-6). Claudius tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that Hamlet needs to go to England in order to protect public safety, however, Claudius wants Hamlet to go to England so the British will kill him. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern still believe that Claudius is a great king because he is doing what is best for Denmark. Claudius appears to be good for doing this, but in reality he is doing this to try to get rid of Hamlet once and for all.
Hamlet revolves around the theme of “Appearance vs. Reality”. The play is circled around spying, plotting each other, and the characters hiding their true intent. The main point that can be taken out of the play is the fact that Hamlet could not take action causes people around him to die. He has many chances to avenge his father’s death, but the fact that he is caught in reality; he is unable to take immediate action. Throughout the whole story, Hamlet tries to avenge his father’s death, but because he could not take action, Hamlet and people around him die.