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Characters within one of William Shakespeare's greatest tragic plays, Hamlet, appear to be true and honest but in reality are infested with many falsehoods and deceptions.

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Introduction

Characters within one of William Shakespeare's greatest tragic plays, Hamlet, appear to be true and honest but in reality are infested with many falsehoods and deceptions. Characters such as Polonius, Claudius, and Hamlet give an impression of a person who is sincere and genuine, but behind their masks are plagued with lies and evil. As a result of Shakespeare's ingenious character development, there is a dominant and overwhelming theme that is concurrent throughout the play. The theme of appearance versus reality engages the reader to overlook apparent behavioural fallacies of the character to achieve a greater sense of understanding of the decisions made by that character. Polonius, the King's royal assistant, has a preoccupation with appearance. He always wants to keep up the appearance of a loving and caring person, which is evident through his love and care of his son, Laertes. Polonius speaks to his son with advice that sounds sincere but in reality it is rehearsed, hollow and without feeling (Author, Page Number). ...read more.

Middle

In actuality, he is using his kindness and gentleness as a mask to cover up the malicious murder that he so violently committed. Claudius through out the play feels guilt for action, and thus tries to repent for his sin in Act III, Scene iii by praying. In his prayer he mourns, "My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer / Can serve my turn? 'Forgive me my foul murder'? " (III. iii. 52-53). In this scene Claudius is not clear on what to feel. He struggles to get out his prayer, because he is unsure if he will be forgiven. He wants to repent for his sin, but he knows that he cannot because he is not truly sorry. In Act III, Scene iii Claudius lists some reasons why he asks for forgiveness. He states, "Of those effects for which I did the murder / My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen" (III. iii. 55-56). Claudius realizes that externally he wants to seek forgiveness but internally cannot give up the positions that he unrightfully gained. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hamlet has a mask of madness that he uses to conceal his true feelings. In Act V, Scene i, Hamlet takes off his mask to genuinely express remorse for Ophelia's unfortunate demise. He comparatively states, "I loved Ophelia; forty thousand brothers / Could not, with all their quantity of love, / Make up my sum" (V. i. 263-265). This expression of sincerity greatly contrasts with the times that he harassed Ophelia with denigrating words that demeaned her existence. More importantly, the comparison provides the reader with a clear, focused picture of the two different personality types of Hamlet. On one side, Hamlet is crude and full of deceptions, on the contrarily he is also a loving and understanding person. Through the characters in the play, the superficial theme, appearance verses reality, is analyzed. Polonius, Claudius and Hamlet all appear to be good and honest, but internally all contain lies and have hidden intentions within them. The characters portray themselves as one person on the outside and a different one on the inside, infesting themselves with deception and falsehood. By continually wearing these masks, the characters have created an environment of confusion and disorder, ultimately resulting in a tragedy - their demise. ...read more.

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