Hamlet: Masks We Wear

Topics: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, Gertrude Pages: 3 (1176 words) Published: March 16, 2001

A mask is a covering worn on the face or something that disguises or conceals oneself. All the characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet hide behind masks to cover up who they really are, which contridictes a main idea, expressed by the fool, Old Polonius, "To thine ownself be true" (Polonius - 1.3.84). All the characters share strengths and triumphs, flaws and downfalls. Instead of revealing their vulnerabilities, each of them wears a mask that conceals who they are and there true convictions. The masks brought about feelings such as fear, hatred, insanity, indecisiveness, ambitiousness, and vengeance all of which contribute to the tragic ending of the play. Shakespeare reveals the idea of the masks in the first lines of the play, "Who's there" (Barnardo - 1.1.1). "Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself" (Fransisco - 1.1.2). These masks are upon each character, placed there by either society, self-ignorance, or guilt. Ophelia, Polonius' daughter and Hamlet's lover, hid behind a mask, just like Queen Gertrude's. It was, according to the society and the culture of the time, in the best interest of the woman to display a passive behavior for their personal preservation, which served as Gertrude's mask. Gertrude was brought up to believe that when a woman protests her innocence, in any matter, too much then people will begin to think otherwise. Gertrude revealed the idea of her mask, when responding to Hamlet inquiry of her likes to the play, her response was a bold reply, "The lady doth protest too much methinks" (Gertrude - 3.2.254), while viewing "The Murder of Ganzago." Hamlet's disgust with his mother's lack of strength, in regards to Claudius' sexual temptations, was evident in his soliloquy, after Gertrude begged him to stay with her and Claudius in Elsinore. "And yet, with a month let me not think on 't; fratility, thy name is woman." (Hamlet - 1.2.149-50) Gertrude's submissiveness is also evident in her refusal to face the pain of the...
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