In general, mankind tends to hide their emotions and actions to protect themselves or someone else to keep their discrete interests private. In the tragedy of Hamlet, almost all the fundamental characters have lied to each other to protect themselves. The lies may appear to be true if one does not carefully read and understand the thoughts and actions of Hamlet, Gertrude, Polonius, Claudius, and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. The characters may seem to act one way in a scene and then changing themselves in another scene. At the end of the tragedy, the intentions of each of the characters are publicized plus the ultimate consequence of their actions: death.
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The story revolves around Hamlet where he is the perfect example of someone appearing to be different than what his actions prove him to be. This is done to mislead his true motives and intentions. “I will tell you why. So shall my anticipation prevent your discovery and your secrecy to the king and queen moult no feather. I have of late-but wherefore I know not-lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air-look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire-why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors (II. ii, 293-303)”. This is a perfect example of Hamlet stating directly about appearance and reality.
The denotation of the first sentence implies that Hamlet is testing the trustworthiness of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet probably already figured out that the King and Queen asked R&G to talk to Hamlet to find out what’s wrong with him. In the second sentence, Hamlet proves to R&G that he is crazy on purpose so the King and Queen won’t discover Hamlets true motives. Lastly, it seemed that R&G received the message about Hamlet and this gave Hamlet time to think about what actions to take to get revenge. But Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are appearing in a different way. R&G are appearing to be Hamlet’s longtime friends but they are in this situation because of money and greed. They are not aware of the real issues and they really don’t care too much about Hamlet’s feelings. They are also confused about the situation and try to make the best of it, but in the end, Hamlet sends them off to die.
Hamlets mother, Gertrude, appears in a way that is disgusting in reality. In Act I. ii, Claudius tries to calm Hamlet over his grief of his dead father but Gertrude wants to keep Hamlet there for her personal family reasons. After this happens, Hamlet rambles on saying, “within a month, Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears, Had left the flushing in her galled eyes, She married (I. ii, 153-156).”Hamlet is disgraced with the events after his father’s death.
After the death of Hamlet’s father, Gertrude portrayed herself to be a person in mourning by shedding tears and acting as if she was in agony. After Claudius becomes king and they get married, Hamlet realized that his mother’s tears were deceptive since she quickly got remarried and showed no remorse over Hamlet senior. Hamlet probably thought that his mother should not have gotten married so quickly to Claudius. This was a dishonorable thing to do to the old king. Hamlet possibly believed that his mother was adulterous and this may have caused him to hate women in general, including Ophelia. Because of this event, Hamlet became harsh on Ophelia, criticizing her wearing makeup because it hides ones true nature. His mother’s action changes Hamlet’s view about Ophelia. He thinks that Ophelia isn’t as pure as he thinks and she may also be hiding something.
Claudius himself is no different from the rest of the characters. He appears to be someone different than what his actions prove him to be by the fact that he killed his brother, Hamlet. Claudius wanted the power and rulership to carry out his dream. In Act 4, Claudius is talking to Gertrude and says “Whose whisper o’er the world’s diameter, as levels as the cannon to his blank transports his poisoned shot, may miss our name and hit the woundless air. Oh come away! My soul is full of discord and dismay (IV. i., 41-45).”
While conversing with Gertrude, Claudius appears to be worried about Hamlet’s psychological health, not because Hamlet is acting crazy, but because Claudius is fearful that Hamlet may have learn the truth about him while he was praying and from Hamlet’s performers that portrayed the events that happened almost exactly the way Claudius murdered his father. Claudius wanted to send Hamlet away to be executed but Hamlet managed to make it back to Denmark avoiding death. Literally speaking, the quote mentions how Claudius hates slander and it can travel very far – all around the earth. He might be also saying that he does not want a bad reputation for him and his kingdom over certain mishaps.
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Polonius is the King’s councilor and appears to be a good person at heart. He is Ophelia’s and Laertes’ father. As a father normally do, he gives his blessing to his son, “to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell. My blessing season this in thee (I. iii. 1 78-81).” Here Polonius wishes his son the best.
Even though Polonius gave Laertes his blessing, he is fearful of what his son might do when he is away on his own, so he sends Reynaldo to spy on him. Polonius is also worried about Ophelia and wants her to stop seeing Hamlet. Polonius uses Hamlet’s madness as a way to be agreeable with the king and be on his worthy side. Polonius misleads the King and his family into believing that he has good motives and intentions. Polonius speaks thoughtfully and carefully to his superiors so he appears to be very knowledgeable.
The characters in this play don’t all appear to be who they actually pretend to be. Hamlet appeared to be crazy for a couple of reason but mainly to prevent anyone from discovering his plot. Gertrude appears to be mournful for Hamlet senior’s death, but quickly forgets that she is in mourning when she marries Claudius and Hamlet takes out his anger on Ophelia. Claudius also appears to be a nice and caring king for his subjects but in Hamlet’s case, Claudius knows Hamlet is conspiring against him and is being cautious. Lastly, Polonius seems to be a caring father but tricks his family while trying to be on the king’s good side. So something is truly rotten in Denmark.
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