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Hamlet. In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, one of the main themes is the discrepancy between appearance and reality.

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Introduction

In the play 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare, one of the main themes is the discrepancy between appearance and reality. The development of this theme through the plot, soliloquy and imagery help to reinforce the player's role in the play and directs the audience to where their allegiances should lie for the climax of the play. The theme appearance versus reality is clearly evident throughout this Shakespearean play; it is introduced at the very beginning through Claudius' speech to the court. The structure and rhythm of this blank verse carries him through but the imagery that Shakespeare uses signals to the audience the corruption in Denmark - he uses phrases such as 'defeated joy', 'one auspicious and one drooping eye' and 'wisest sorrow'. These opposing images and hollow phrases reveal the hypocrisy of the diplomat's words; how can a person have 'one auspicious and one drooping eye' unless they are duplicitous? Claudius' opening speech is also eloquent, relaxed and so carefully structured that it appears rehearsed - he deals with three items of business before confronting his black-suited nephew: Old King Hamlet's death; the threat from Fortinbras' army; Laertes' impending departure to France. ...read more.

Middle

This rhyming couplet not only reveals the theme appearance versus reality, but is also richly ironic as this 'prayer' actually saves his life. Shakespeare also employs the transferred epithet 'stubborn knees' to further emphasise Claudius' reluctance to repent for his sins and how he is putting on the appearance of praying, albeit mendaciously. In my opinion, the development of the main theme through Claudius' soliloquy successfully polarises Claudius from the protagonists and reinforces him as the villain in the play, directing the audience to where their allegiances should lie for the climax of the play. In addition, Shakespeare conveys the theme appearance versus reality through Hamlet's 'antic disposition'. This is illustrated particularly well through Hamlet's exchanges with Polonius: 'Let her not walk i'th'sun. Conception is a blessing. But as your daughter may conceive - friend, look to't.' Although these words sound like nonsense to Polonius and the audience, there is a thread of bitter satire running through them. ...read more.

Conclusion

As a result of the spying, Ophelia and Gertrude spoke to Hamlet with constrained formality: 'How does your honour for this many a day?'. This heated exchange between the eponymous prince and Ophelia during 'the nunnery scene' recapitulates arguably the main theme of the play; appearance versus reality which is exposed at the very beginning and is reiterated through Hamlet's exchanges with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - they also spy on Hamlet for Claudius: 'they did make love to this employment!'. In my opinion, Shakespeare effectively evokes sympathy for Hamlet and his little allies through dramatic irony and further polarises Hamlet and Claudius through the development of this main theme hence reinforcing Hamlet as the tragic hero of the play. In conclusion, the development of the theme appearance versus reality is essential in augmenting the audience's understanding and appreciation of the play as a whole. In my opinion, Shakespeare effectively develops this main theme through the plot, soliloquy, imagery and dramatic irony which successfully reinforces the player's role in the play and also directs the audience to where their sympathies should lie for the denouement. ...read more.

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