An essay about the theme of appearances vs reality as it appears in Shakespeare's Hamlet

Essay by canvas_savnacHigh School, 12th gradeA+, December 2003

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Hamlet - Appearances Versus Reality

One of the major themes in Hamlet by William Shakespeare is the concept of things not always being as they appear. This is demonstrated by most of the major characters in this play. Claudius brings up this factor in more than one aspect; his love for Hamlet and Gertrude can be examined in regards to appearances versus reality. Hamlet can also be viewed in this manner with respect to his sanity and his love for Ophelia. Polonius' character demonstrates clearly the theme of things not always being as they appear; he can be viewed as a caring and loving person, or a sneaky and deceitful politician. Ophelia's sexual innocence can also be questioned; as can the friendship between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Hamlet.

Claudius, the new king of Denmark, allows us to clearly examine the theme of appearances versus reality. Claudius appears to love Hamlet so as to seem a worthy king to the people of Denmark.

He does not want Hamlet or the people of Denmark know about his guilty conscience, so he hides it by treating Hamlet with respect and affection. Early on in the play he tells Hamlet that he has confidence in him by revealing to him that he is "the most immediate to our thrown/ And with no less nobility of love" (Hamlet, I.ii.109-10). This is Claudius' attempt to make Hamlet and the people of the court believe that he loves his nephew and his new son. He also requests that Hamlet stay in Denmark, making it appear as though he enjoys Hamlets presence and worries about his well being, "It is most retrograde to our desire: / And we beseech you, bend you to remain / Here, in the cheer and comfort of our eye, / Our chiefest courtier,