Appearance Vs Reality Hamlet Essay

Submitted By Chrisgeorge2012C
Words: 1355
Pages: 6

Appearance vs. Reality in Hamlet Contrast between appearance and reality is a prevalent theme in William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Hamlet’s feigned madness – a perfect example of appearance versus reality - introduces disorder to the royal house of Denmark, forcing others to act accordingly. Hamlet’s antic disposition penetrates the outward shell of characters in the play and uncovers their true colours, including himself. As the play progresses, Claudius, Polonius, and Hamlet are put through a series of situations which in the end, exposes their true nature to the audience. While Polonius appears to be a loving and caring father to Laertes and Ophelia, his approach to Ophelia’s relationship with Hamlet and his interaction with the King proves his overwhelming desire for recognition and status. In Act I, having received the consent of both the King and his father, Laertes prepares for Paris. Before he departs, Polonius takes time to sit down with Laertes and provide a few words of advice. He instructs Laertes to avoid quarrels, to make friends easily, to be neither a borrower or a lender, and most importantly, “to thine own self be true” (I.iii.82). Polonius loves his son dearly and obviously wants the best for him. After sending Laertes off to France, Polonius tends to Ophelia. In Act II, a terrified Ophelia cries out to her father and tells of Hamlet’s recent melancholy and strange behaviour. Upon hearing this, Polonius’ initial concern is not for Ophelia and her safety, but for Hamlet. Rather than attempting to comfort his daughter after her troublesome experience, he tells her, “Come we to the King. This must be known” (II.i.128-129). Though he is old, Polonius is very devious. He decides to inform the King of this recent news, not for the protection of his daughter, but so that the King might find favour with him in light of Hamlet’s recent madness. At once, he takes a few pieces of evidence of Hamlet’s affections for Ophelia and presents them to the King and Queen, immediately concluding that Hamlet’s madness “sprung from neglected love” (III.i.190). After informing the King and Queen, he eagerly offers to loose Ophelia to Hamlet and to “mark the encounter” (II.ii.177). When the plan is executed in Act III, Hamlet feigns madness once again and berates a heartbroken Ophelia. After Hamlet leaves her alone, she immediately returns to her father. Surprisingly, Polonius makes no attempt to comfort her. He simply addresses the King concerning the encounter between Hamlet and Ophelia and discusses the next steps in determining the cause of Hamlet’s madness. Polonius’ actions are incongruous with the idea of a loving father. The reason is clear: Polonius holds his reputation and status in higher regard than his paternal duty to his own children. Similarly, Claudius puts on a manufactured appearance to conceal his overwhelming desire for power. He is an ambitious, intelligent and capable ruler, willing to go to great extents to satisfy his own desires, even at the cost of innocent lives. To the general public, Claudius is an honourable man who, in the wake of King Hamlet’s death, marries Gertrude for the betterment of Denmark. In Act I, in the presence of the court, Claudius speaks highly of the spent king and shows a general love for all of his subjects. As Claudius sends Voltimand and Cornelius off to Norway, he thanks and gives them complete trust. This shows his trust and caring for his subjects in front of the court, winning even more consent from the council: “We doubt it nothing. Heartily farewell.” (I.ii.41). He also increases his appearance of an honest and noble man in front of the council by showing his respect for Polonius when he gives his son, Laertes, permission to leave for France. Following this, Claudius proceeds to declare Hamlet as the most immediate to the throne before the court, furthermore strengthening his appearance as a loving father. In reality, Claudius does not care much for Hamlet, which