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Appearance Vs. Reality In William Shakespeare's Hamlet

1502 words - 6 pages

Appearance vs. Reality in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

In Hamlet, one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, there is a
prevailing theme that is concurrent throughout the play. Throughout
the play, all the characters appear to be one thing on the outside,
yet on the inside they are completely different. The theme of
appearance versus reality is prominent in Hamlet because of the fact
that the characters portray themselves different from what they really
are. In the play, Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, appears to be a caring,
moderate man on the outside, but he is using his loving personality to
mask his true traits of a selfish, mean, cold-hearted murderer. The
women in Hamlet appear to live happy, wonderful lives on the outside,
but their joy is used to cover up the unhappiness they feel on the
inside. And finally, Hamlet appears to be mad and insane, but really
he is using his madness to hide his intentions of seeking justice for
his father's murder. The question of appearance versus reality is one
of most significance in philosophy. What is genuinely real and what is
appearance, or illusion? This question is developed as the Danish
kingdom is filled with deception, treason, and lies.

Claudius is a deceiving character who goes to great lengths to mask
his true intentions, portraying himself as a kind, gentle man.
Claudius kills his brother to inherit the throne and weds Hamlet's
mother Gertrude. His crime goes undetected, and he is free of
punishment for his actions. Claudius progressively carries his evil
plot by putting on an angle-like appearance that makes him seem like a
man fit to be the king of Denmark. This illusion that Claudius puts on
ensures that no suspicion is aroused and that his secret is kept
hidden. Under this illusion, Claudius is not a selfish, cruel man, but
an honorable and respectable king. Claudius uses his kind and gentle
behavior as a cloak to conceal the violent murder he committed to
fulfill his ambition of becoming king. Throughout the play Claudius
feels some remorse for his actions and tries to repent for his sin by
praying. In his prayer he says, "My fault is past. But, O,
what form of prayer can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder?" (3,
3, 54-55) In this scene Claudius appears to be puzzled by his own
emotions. He is hesitant to pray, because he is unsure that he will be
forgiven for his sin. He wants to repent for his sins, but he knows
that he is not truly sorry. Claudius justifies his prayers by saying,
"Of those effects for which I did the murder- my crown, mine own
ambition, and my queen." (3, 3, 57-58) It is then that Claudius comes
to the realization that he appears to want forgiveness but on the
inside he can't give up the position he now holds. Claudius thus
realizes that he has to separate his own deceptive illusion from his
true...

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