The Theme of Knowledge in Hamlet Essay

1617 Words Feb 23rd, 2013 7 Pages
Who Knows?: The Theme of Knowledge in Hamlet What may be true to one person is not always true to another. There are huge factors to take into account like a difference in opinion, secrets, or lies. Another important aspect of information is what is done with it, since knowledge is power. The need to verify information is always as great as the need for it in the first place. These are all central pieces to consider when evaluating a theme of knowledge. This theme is especially noteworthy in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a play about a prince who learns that his uncle murdered his father, the King, in order to ascend to the throne. The way prince Hamlet learns this information is indeed a driving force in the theme of knowledge, and the …show more content…
The theme of knowledge is exemplified here by Hamlet’s desire to prove what he thinks he knows. He refuses to take the ghost’s word, and must test it himself, enforcing the central theme. Hamlet is however racked with indecision, and spends most of this scene subtly ridiculing Claudius anyway, though Hamlet is not yet sure of his guilt. For example, after the play has served its purpose and Claudius rises, calling for light, Hamlet makes a joke that the King is “frightened by false fire” (272), implying that the King is scared this may happen to him. The reader can envision the mocking tone from Hamlet’s verbal irony as he rejoices in finally proving the King’s guilt, at least to himself. Hamlet actually employs the same stylistic irony earlier, during a short exchange with Polonius, relating it back to his father’s murder. Polonius says, “I did enact Julius Caesar: I was killed i' the / Capitol; Brutus killed me” (105-6). To which Hamlet replies, “It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf / there” (107-8). This is symbolic of what Hamlet knows about his father’s death in that he relates Caesar’s innocent “calf-like” death to his father’s murder. This, along with pieces of his conversation with Ophelia, seem to be pieces in which he is talking to himself, so zealous about his plan with the play, that he is merely speaking aloud in riddles about what has been bothering him. He mentions to Ophelia, “how cheerfully my / mother looks, and my father
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