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 become king himself. This murder, which was done in secret, with no one but Claudius 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 brother's former wife.
These awful crimes have not been punished , and on one knows that Claudius has done this. When Claudius confronts anyone, he must become someone different. He puts on a self-serving, cold, devious mask. Meanwhile , he acts like a caring husband who does his best to ensure that Gertrude stays with him. This helps Claudius to keep Hamlet from trying to take the kingdom and destroy what he has worked so hard to gain. To the end Claudius has different faces. But is Claudius really masking his true character, when he tries to seek redemption for his sins? Claudius wrestles with his guilt by asking himself:
"Where to serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offense?
And that's in prayer but his twofold force,
To be forestalled are we come to fall...
That cannot be, since I...