Shakespeare examines the theme of appearance and reality in his book-Hamlet. The dilemma of what is "real" is established at the very beginning of the play. Hamlet doesn't know what to believe and devises a plan to find out. The old king Hamlet appears to be bitten by a snake, but in reality he was poisoned, the ghost appears as an apparition, but it's actually real, and the play-with-in-a-play strongly depicts the theme of appearance vs. reality. The dead King appears to have been bitten by a snake. In reality, he has been poisoned. Everyone believes that the king died from snakebite, but once Hamlet knows the truth he is unsettled by the revelation. When Hamlet's dead father directs his son to, "Avenge him of his foul and most
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99-102). Hamlet's decision to simulate madness as a means of enacting his revenge is important. The news that Hamlet received about his father and his mother could drive anyone insane. As a result, the line between appearance and reality becomes notably distorted as the play progresses. Guildernstern says in Act 3 lines7-9, "But with a crafty madness keeps aloof when we would bring him on to some confession of this true state." At times it also seems that Hamlet's appearance of madness has become a reality, (3.1. 201-203) "You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you not." Hamlet loved Ophelia so this is definitely not true, but during the course of the play, his madness seems so genuine that one wonders if he is acting.
The most obvious symbol of appearance vs. reality' is the play-within-a-play. The actors appear onstage and act out the events that actually happened in reality. Hamlet has carefully orchestrated this play so that he can gauge the degree of reality by Claudius' reaction, "For murder, though it have no tongue will speak with most miraculous organ
Before mine uncle I'll observe his looks
If a do blench, I'll know my course" (2.2. 605-610). Besides furthering the plot of Hamlet, the play-within-a-play also