Essay about Appearance vs. Reality in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Appearance vs. Reality in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

In Hamlet, one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, there is a prevailing theme that is concurrent throughout the play. Throughout the play, all the characters appear to be one thing on the outside, yet on the inside they are completely different. The theme of appearance versus reality is prominent in Hamlet because of the fact that the characters portray themselves different from what they really are. In the play, Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, appears to be a caring, moderate man on the outside, but he is using his loving personality to mask his true traits of a selfish, mean, cold-hearted murderer. The women in Hamlet appear to live happy,
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Claudius uses his kind and gentle behavior as a cloak to conceal the violent murder he committed to fulfill his ambition of becoming king. Throughout the play Claudius feels some remorse for his actions and tries to repent for his sin by praying. In his prayer he says, "My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder?" (3, 3, 54-55) In this scene Claudius appears to be puzzled by his own emotions. He is hesitant to pray, because he is unsure that he will be forgiven for his sin. He wants to repent for his sins, but he knows that he is not truly sorry. Claudius justifies his prayers by saying, "Of those effects for which I did the murder- my crown, mine own ambition, and my queen." (3, 3, 57-58) It is then that Claudius comes to the realization that he appears to want forgiveness but on the inside he can't give up the position he now holds. Claudius thus realizes that he has to separate his own deceptive illusion from his true feelings, embarking the age-old question: what is real, and what is appearance.

The women of Hamlet generate the question of appearance versus reality in several parts of the play. Ophelia and Gertrude display deceptive illusions to hide the corruptions of their lives, appearing to be happy. Shakespeare employs appearance versus reality to

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