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Reality Vs. Appearance Hamlet Essay

978 words - 4 pages

In the play "Hamlet," Shakespeare's characters are confronted with the timeless question: How can one determine what is actually true from what only seems to be true? Throughout the play, the theme of appearance versus reality is constant. This theme is played out from the beginning, with Claudius' attempt to conceal his secret intentions; Gertrude and Ophelia masking their own truths, and finally Hamlet, who assumes the role of a madman in order to uncover the reality behind his appearance.Various characters try to cover their secret intentions with a veneer of a whole other person. One of the most obvious is Claudius. Claudius murdered his brother, the former King Hamlet, in order to ...view middle of the document...

The contrast of appearances versus reality is also portrayed through the female characters. Both Ophelia and Gertrude mask themselves to the harsh realities of their life. Ophelia's character is far more fragile than any other. Hamlet's almost incessant cruelty to Ophelia drives her, eventually insane. She puts up her appearance as a defense, trying to protect herself from Hamlet's cruelty, but it fails. Ophelia believes for awhile, that Hamlet lovers her deeply , and that he would never harm her directly. When the truth and reality hit her, she breaks under pressure and commits suicide. Gertrude, the other woman in the play, has a much stronger shield. She refuses to see or believe the truth that Hamlet shows her; the truth that Claudius murdered her husband for the kingdom. She is also concerned of Hamlet's madness, but what he says does not affect here much at all. Even at her death she does not realize or see the truth of Claudius' betrayal. Gertrude denies the reality of the evil in Ellsinore, and hides behind the curtain of illusions.The most complicated character is Hamlet himself. The line between Hamlet's appearance and his reality is very fine, at times blurred, so it is difficult to discern. Whether he was truly sane has been debated often, and some have concluded that if appearances seem like reality for long enough, it perhaps becomes reality. One of Hamlet's biggest setbacks is that he tends to think things out for along time. He does not act on instinct; however, he makes certain that...

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