Appearance vs. Reality in Hamlet

             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 aught to us unknown afflicts him this, That open’d lies within our remedy.” (85).
             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.” (107). Thus, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are left in a situation where they do not want to offend either the king and the queen or Hamlet. They also have a peculiar quality in which they are strikingly similar. They answer almost as if they are one person, sometimes taking turns speaking and then both spea...

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Appearance vs. Reality in Hamlet. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 02:43, January 20, 2017, from