Hamlet Appearance Vs Reality Analysis

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Shakespeare effectively uses his play Hamlet to reveal distinct and memorable ideas regarding the duplicitous nature of man and the inner conflict individuals experience due to their inability to act. Shakespeare successfully uses dramatic techniques to highlight his concern with one’s appearance versus reality and the issues concerning procrastination in the face of vengeance. Hamlet is a product of its time, simultaneously reflecting and challenging the values and attitudes of the Elizabethan era. The revenge tragedy is set in Denmark and Prince Hamlet’s deliberations after he is instructed to avenge the murder of his father by his uncle Claudius. The play’s structure and the depth of the characterisation of characters has made Hamlet one …show more content…
Characters in the play utilise duplicity and deception to present an image of themselves completely separate to their true selves. The theme of one’s appearance versus reality directly links to the Machiavellian ideology of the Elizabethan era. Various characters throughout the play place themselves above morality, and use deceit and craft to maintain authority and power. Shakespeare uses the dramatic irony of Polonius’ advice, a conniving character notorious for eavesdropping, “to thine own self be true” to introduce the idea that most characters in the play hide their true intentions. Polonius’ advice is ironic as few characters in the play, including Polonius reveal their true selves, choosing instead to hide their intentions to maintain power. This duplicitous nature of man is further explored in the characterisation of Claudius. Claudius is portrayed as cunning and evil, murdering his own brother to gain his throne and wife, “the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown”. Claudius embodies Machiavellian values, adopting the appearance of a loving father, husband and brother. It is this deceit that confuses Hamlet and halts his pursuit of the truth, “that one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” In spite of his contempt for false appearances, Hamlet plans to “put on an antic disposition” to confuse his onlookers leaving him free to observe and judge Claudius. Similarly to Claudius, Hamlet adopts a false appearance to manipulate his observers, Hamlet’s motives however can be seen as nobler as he seeks vengeance for his father’s murder. In contrast to Claudius’ Machiavellian characteristics, Hamlet represents Humanist thinking emphasising the agency of human beings and demonstrates a preference for critical thinking and evidence. Although Hamlet’s plan is to appear mad there are times in the play where

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