The Mask of Hamlet
When people put on a mask or costume it is usually because they are trying to hide themselves or portray a certain feeling to onlookers. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet puts on a "antic disposition" as a strategy to get closer to Claudius. Hamlet tells his friends this by saying (I,iv,170-173) "how strange or odd some'er I bear myself (As I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on), That you, at such times seeing me, never shall, with arms encumb'red thus, or this head-shake, or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase," Hamlet's strategy is successful at the beginning in that he is able to fool Ophilia, Gertrude, Polonius and Claudius but as the play proceeds Polonius and Claudius began to see that there is logic behind his madness and actions. Toward the end Hamlets strategy becomes a tragic error when he begins to act solely on emotion instead of logic. In doing so he makes the mistake of killing Polonius instead of Claudius. Claudius then realizes that it would have been him dead instead of Polonius if he had been there. This scares Claudius in to trying to get rid of Hamlet any way he can. This explains the old saying "You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."
Hamlet's reason for putting on his antic disposition is that he wants to fool Claudius into believing that he is fanatical and is no threat to him physically or to his anarchy. The reason for doing this is that Claudius secretly killed Old Hamlet, who was king to gain the thrown for himself. Hamlet after conversing with the ghost of his dead father learns that Claudius killed his father and swears revenge on Claudius. By Hamlet putting on his antic disposition he is able to get closer to Claudius so he can be sure of the tragic murder of his father was done by Claudius, and when given the perfect opportunity he can take his vengeance. Hamlet was able to find out that it was Claudius by setting up a trap for him involving a play. Unfortunately by this time Hamlet has lost his control and created a tragic error by acting on emotion, which in the end leads to his death.
Those who Hamlet did not fool for long were Claudius and Polonius. There is proof of this when Claudius says (III;I;160-163)"Was not like madness. There's something in his soul O'er which his melancholy sits on brood, And...