Essay by JoeHigh School, 11th grade February 1997

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In Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet, there is a prevalent and almost overwhelming theme. All

throughout the play, all of the characters appear as one thing, with one standpoint, and one outlook.

However on the inside, all of these characters are completely different. This 'mask' theme, the way that all

of the characters portray themselves as one person on the outside and one different one on the inside, is not

in the least disguised by Shakespeare. Claudius, the murdering king, appears to be a somewhat kind,

caring, and friendly person. But inside he is different. He is cold, calculating, and self-serving. But this

might also be a mask. The women in the play, Ophelia and Gertrude, both use a type of mask to cover

what is obvious in their lives, masking it so that they can continue living as if their existence was without

and cruelty. And finally Hamlet hides behind his madness, be it real or pretend, a person who is indecisive

and spiteful.

Masks in this play are not just a theme; they are the whole basis of it.

The mask theme develops throughout the play as various characters try to cover their secret

intentions with a veneer of a whole other person. One of the most obvious, of course is Claudius. Claudius

murdered his brother, the former king Hamlet, in order to become king himself. This murder, which was

done in secret, with no one but Cladius knowing that the act was committed by him. Not only is he the

King of Denmark, but he is also married to Queen Gertrude, his brothers former wife. These hideous and

awful crimes have not been punished, and no one knows that Claudius has done this. When Claudius

confronts anyone, he must become someone totally different. Claudius puts on a...