Performance vs. Reality in Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'

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Performance versus reality in Shakespeare's Hamlet William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet has often been described as a play about a man who cannot make up his mind. Yet it could just as easily be described as play about a man putting on a play. Hamlet is obsessed with the discrepancy between what is real and what is performed. Hamlet's despair at the difficulty of understanding what is 'the truth' motivates him to put on a play to 'test' his uncle Claudius, to see if Claudius is really the murderer of his father. It also motivates him to question his own role as an avenger. Given the fact that no one in the play, even Hamlet, is who he seems to be, Hamlet's delay in killing Claudius seems less like indecisiveness than an acknowledgement of the inability to know what is 'truth' at all. It is because of the paradoxes inherent in the play that Hamlet remains so essential to study today and should remain a topic for a research paper in English 1302 class, At the beginning of the play, when Gertrude reproaches her son for continuing to wear black in mourning of his father, unlike the rest of the court, Hamlet responds: "Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not 'seems'" (I.2). Hamlet states that his mourning is not a state of show and merely scratches the surface of his real feelings. "But I have that within which passeth show; / These but the trappings and the suits of woe" (I.2). In contrast, Claudius has an entirely false, constructed persona. After Hamlet is told by his father's

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