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Appearance Vs Reality Essay Research Paper Appearance

Appearance Vs. Reality Essay, Research Paper Appearance vs. Reality in Hamlet To Be or Not to Be? Shakespeare?s Hamlet is the tale of a young prince determined to uncover the

Appearance Vs. Reality Essay, Research Paper

Appearance vs. Reality in Hamlet

To Be or Not to Be?

Shakespeare?s Hamlet is the tale of a young prince determined to uncover the

truth about his father?s recent death. Hamlet?s uncle (and also the deceased king?s

brother), Claudius, marries his mother the queen, and therefore, takes the throne. In the

beginning of the story, Hamlet is told by the apparition of his dead father that it was

Claudius who in fact murdered him. The theme that remains consistent throughout the

tragedy is appearance versus reality. The characters introduced to us throughout the play

appear to be pure and honest, but in reality are infested with evil. They deceitfully hide

behind a mask of integrity. Four main dishonest characters which are found to be

disguised with righteousness are Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and the freshly

crowned king Claudius. The first impression presented by these characters are ones of

truth, honor, and morality; they are all plagued by evilness and lies in reality. Their

appearances serve as obstacles for Hamlet as he struggles to discover the hidden truth.

The king?s royal assistant, Polonius, has a great preoccupation with appearance.

He continually gives the impression of being an affectionate and caring person. He is

introduced as a father who deeply cares for his son, Laertes. Polonius speaks to Laertes

with advice which sounds sincere, yet in truth, is rehearsed, empty, and without feeling.

He gives the advice to make others believe he is a strong, loving, role-model type of a

father. He is similar to a politician. He speaks strong, influential words, but does not

actually mean what he is saying sincerely in the least. Polonius grants his son his blessing

to leave Denmark:

?And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: 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!? (Hamlet 46).

Within his speech to Laertes, Polonius advises him to not borrow from others, to remain

true to himself, and not to lie. Polonius appears to be a caring and trusting father when in

fact he sends a spy after Laertes to follow and keep an eye on him. This demonstrates his

distrust for his son. He is not the confident father in which he is shown to be. His speech

was rehearsed to give the effect that he actually cares and is trustworthy of his son.

Polonius further adds to the theme of appearance versus reality when he orders his

daughter, Ophelia, to stop seeing Hamlet. He mischieviously lies to her, claiming that

Hamlet does not love her, that he only lusts for her: ?Ay, springs to catch woodcocks. I

do know, When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul? (Hamlet 47). Throughout the

play, Polonius is seen as a warm and tender parent. Behind the mask, he is a devious,

lying, and manipulative person. Polonius obviously contributes to the theme of

appearance versus reality by illustrating that his virtuous appearance is not true in nature,

because underneath the facade he is someone completely different.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two of Hamlet?s closest friends from childhood.

They follow the king?s instructions when asked to figure out what is troubling Hamlet.

The two go to Hamlet with the illusion of being ?friends? with Hamlet, but in truth are

simply there to abide by the king?s orders. Their inquiry of his problems are not sincere.

There is some irony in this situation; the boys are asked to discover the truth while hiding

in a lie of pretending to be Hamlet?s true friends. As Hamlet realizes their underhanded

motives, he states, ? A dream itself is but a shadow? (Hamlet 73). Hamlet understands

that they are not the ?good friends? he assumed they were. The king sends Rosencrantz

and Guildenstern again to try to gain an explanation for Hamlet?s awkward behavior.

Hamlet recognizes their intentions once again and proceeds to insult them: ?It is as easy

as lying. Govern these ventages with your finger and thumb, give it breath with your

mouth…? (Hamlet 106). It is evident to see how these two ?buddies? of Hamlet add to

the appearance versus reality theme.

The conduct wonderfully presented by Claudius, the new king of Denmark,

illustrates him as an honest and heartfelt man. In Act One, Claudius demonstrates his

great skill at public speaking as he is in the presence of council:

? Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother?s death

The memory be green, and that it us befitted

To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom

To be contracted in one brow of woe? (Hamlet 33).

The reality of the situation is that Claudius cares little for his brother and his death. He is

just happy to be at the head of the thrown; something he had previously longed for. He

speaks respectfully and honorably of him and on his behalf only to be looked upon as a

loving brother.

In Act One, Hamlet directly insults Claudius, and yet the king continues the front

of being caring and truly affectionate towards his nephew. A normal king (or any

authority figure) would become angry an punish anyone who would degrade them in any

way. Claudius demonstrates to his council that he is understanding of Hamlet?s grievances

over his deceased father. He advises Hamlet that grieving can be harmful and not healthy.

He reinforces that it is respectable and honorable of Hamlet to morn for his father:

? Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,

To give these mourning duties to your father.

But you must know your father lost a father,

That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound

In filial obligation for some term

To do obsequious sorrow. But to persever

In obstinate condolement is a course

Of impious stubbornness? (Hamlet 37).

Claudius further makes it difficult for Hamlet to reveal the truth about the murder

of his father when Claudius announces that Hamlet shall be next in line for the throne of

Denmark. This demonstrates Claudius? apparent love and trust in Hamlet, that he would

allow him to take his place when he dies. He seems to be an honorable and virtuous man

when he declares this: ? You are the most immediate to our throne, and with no less

nobility of love than that which dearest father bears his son do I impart toward you?

(Hamlet 37).

All in all, Claudius appears to be a trustworthy king who would do anything for his

kingdom. In truth, although, he is a selfish and greedy brother. He desired all his brother

once had. He coveted his wife and tried to be a father-figure for his son. He wanted all

being a king had to offer, and he achieved his position through the murder of his own flesh

and blood. Behind his pure and moral mask, laid a monstrous and deceitful man.

By reading the tragedy, Hamlet, one can reveal that the four characters mentioned

in this essay (Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Claudius) are completely

two-faced. They follow the theme of appearance versus reality specifically. Each give the

first impression of being true to their intentions, honest, and pure. It is uncovered

throughout the play that they are all devious and cunning. These characters are

impediments to Hamlet, as he fights to discover the truth which haunts him.

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