Appearance vs. Reality in Hamlet

Length: 3 Pages 780 Words

What problems does Hamlet face in regards to the surface appearance of the characters he meet? Hamlet is often faced with characters that put on a false appearance in order to hide the reality of his or her actual motives. Even his good friends betray him by conversing with him with the pretense of merely visiting him. Although he is faced with the fundamental problem of appearance and reality, he is guilty of this himself. Claudius is the first character in the play Hamlet that masks his true self as well as his intentions. Although he appears to be sympathetic to Hamlet and the king’s death – “Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death The memory be green, and that it us befitted To bear our hearts in grief” (19) – the reality is that he is actually, according to the ghost, the one that caused the king’s death and Hamlet’s pain – “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life Now wears his crown.” (61). Instead of asking directly, Claudius sends for Hamlet’s friends to find out what is wrong with him – “so by your companies To draw him on to the pleasures, and to gather So much as from occasion you may glean, Whether Continue...

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Because Hamlet's friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, were sent for by Claudius and Gertrude, and they do not wish for Hamlet to know, they mask their intentions for seeing Hamlet with the excuse of wanting to visit an old friend - "To visit you, my lord; no other occasion. (105) -, but Hamlet quickly discovered their motives - "I know the good king and queen have sent for you. They also have a peculiar quality in which they are strikingly similar. (73) -, but this is only a plan to secretly spy on Laertes using Reynaldo - "You shall do marvelous wisely, good Reynaldo, Before you visit him, to make inquire Of his behavior. He is more concerned about hearing himself than the subject matter. (81) -, which is true to what he told Horatio - "As I perchance hereafter shall think meet To put an antic disposition on (71). (85) - and the queen - "Thanks Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz (87) - as if it didn't matter which character is which. aught to us unknown afflicts him this, That open'd lies within our remedy. Polonius reinforces the appearance-reality theme by hiding the person he truly is with a more virtuous, considerate image, similar to Claudius. Hamlet fails to see how an actor can shed tears for someone they don't even know - "For Hecuba! What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, That he should weep for her (127) and yet he, with a good reason, cannot follow through with his plan for revenge - "Yet I, A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak, Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause, And can say nothing (127). He compares himself to them and, ideally, he would behave like the players - "What would he do, Had he the motive and the cue for passion That I have (127). They shed tears and show great emotion for no reason other than acting well - "That from her working all his visage wann'd; Tears in his eyes, distraction in 's aspect, A broken voice, and his whole function suiting With forms to his conceit And all for nothing! (127). The players are also important in the play because they give Hamlet a reason to question his own abilities.