In Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet, there are many themes that appear throughout the play. During the sequence of events in the play we see that there are many obvious themes and many underlying themes. One of these themes that can be seen throughout the play is the way characters appear as one thing, and really are different in their actions at different times. Characters wear a sort of mask to keep them and their feelings inside. We see this with the way that Hamlet hides behind his madness and the way that Claudius puts forth a somewhat kind image when really he is cold and self-serving. Analyzing all the characters we see that this mask of deception theme is a highly fundamental part of the drama.
We see the mask theme develop throughout the play as various characters try to cover their secret intentions by ways of deception. One of the most obvious, of course is Claudius.
Claudius murdered his brother, the former king Hamlet, in order to become king himself. Not only is he the King of Denmark, but he is also married to Queen Gertrude, his brothers former wife. When Claudius confronts anyone, he must become someone totally different. Claudius puts on a mask of his own. He is no longer the self-serving, cold, conniving man that he really is. He becomes a kind, caring man who does his very best to ensure that Gertrude stays with him. Claudius also does his best to keep Hamlet from trying to take the kingdom and destroy what Claudius has worked for so long to gain.
The women in Hamlet are confused in a much different way. Both Ophelia and Gertrude mask themselves to the harsh realities of their life. Ophelia's mask is far more fragile than any other is. She puts up a defense at first, trying to protect herself from Hamlet's cruelty, but it fails. Ophelia believes for awhile, that a hamlet loves her deeply, and that he would never harm her directly. But soon, through his words and his actions, such as killing her farther, her mask O'Leary protecting her from Hamlets assaults is shattered. When the truth really bit her she brakes down and commits suicide. Gertrude, the other woman in the play, has a much stranger mask. 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 convinced of Hamlets madness, but what he says does not affect her much at all. Her mask is one that puts herself into her world. As long as she lives her life unaffected, she is happy, and she will not let anything shatter her fantasy.
So we see that most everyone in Hamlet wears a mask. These masks all serve to provide the characters with protection, and also enable them to receive something that they want to get. From the women wanting a perfect world to Claudius seeking to convince everyone of his kindness the characters use the mask in hopes to benefit their current situations. The theme of masks is developed early on to set up a type of control, which acts as a basis for the actions of the characters in this play. Shakespeare leaves us to wonder what the story would have been like if anyone of the characters stepped out from behind their mask. It is likely that this catastrophe would not have taken place and more likely that Hamlet would be king.