Hamlet And Appearances

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade September 2001

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Appearance vs. Reality in Hamlet In William Shakespeare's dark comedy, Measure for Measure, the Duke says, "O, what man may within him hide, though angel on the outward side!" (Measure for Measure III. v.) This statement embodies a theme that is common to many Shakespearean plays: the discrepancy between appearances and reality. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet appears to be dead, but in reality is only in a deep sleep. In Othello, Iago appears to be a friend to Othello, but in reality is plotting revenge. In Macbeth the witches' prophecies appear to be good news, but in reality they foretell tragedy. Hamlet, arguably Shakespeare's greatest drama ever written, is no different. In this tragedy, the King appears to be an honest man, Ophelia appears to love Hamlet, and Hamlet appears to be insane. Almost all the characters hide behind a mask of deceit, making it impossible to untangle the web of lies they have created.

The deaths of many of the main characters could have been avoided had they been as honest as they seemed. Because the tragedies in Hamlet occur because of lies, the major theme of the play is the difference between appearances and reality.

From the very first scene, things are not what they should be in Denmark. The ghost of the old king appears to tell Hamlet that the situation of his death is not as it appears; his brother has actually murdered him. After receiving this information Hamlet feigns madness in order to gain information about his uncle, the new king. Suspicious of Hamlet's behavior, the king and his councilor, Polonius, use spies and Polonius's daughter and Hamlet's girlfriend, Ophelia, as bait to find the cause of his distress. Unsuccessful at their mission, they plan to send Hamlet to England after he speaks with...