There are many acts of betrayal that occur throughout Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The most significant betrayals occur between Hamlet and his family members and close friends. Hamlet is betrayed by his mother, Gertrude, when she remarries his Uncle Claudius just two months after Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet, dies.
Hamlet is also betrayed by his best friend Horatio when he refuses to believe Hamlet’s claims that his father’s ghost has appeared to him. And finally, Hamlet is betrayed by Ophelia, the woman he loves, when she sides with her father Polonius and helps him to spy on Hamlet.
The betrayals Hamlet experiences lead him down a dark path of revenge and madness. As a result of Gertrude’s betrayal, Hamlet comes to believe that all women are untrustworthy and he is unable to love or trust Ophelia anymore. Hamlet’s feelings of betrayal and abandonment by those closest to him cause him to lash out in anger and violence, which eventually leads to his downfall.
If Hamlet had not been betrayed by those closest to him, it is possible that his story may have had a different ending. But as it stands, the betrayals Hamlet experiences drive him into a downward spiral from which he is unable to escape.
In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the writer uses the consequences and fatalities inflicted upon his figures to illustrate that a betrayal of one’s trust can have severe effects. Shakespeare reinforces his message with his main characters by having them go through numerous disasters, such as madness or loss of someone.
Hamlet is a story about the act of betrayal, and how it can tear people and families apart. Hamlet’s uncle Kills Hamlet’s father in order to usurp the throne, Hamlet’s girlfriend Ophelia betrays Hamlet by revealing his love for her to his mother, and Hamlet himself kills Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two friends who were sent by the King to spy on Hamlet. In each of these instances, someone is betrayed and as a result, they all experience negative consequences.
The act of betrayal is first seen in the play when Hamlet’s uncle Claudius kills Hamlet’s father in order to take his place as king. Claudius’s betrayal of Hamlet Sr. leads to Hamlet Jr.’s insane behavior throughout the play. Hamlet is so distraught over his father’s death and his mother’s quick remarriage to Claudius that he feigns madness in order to get revenge. While Hamlet’s friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are trying to figure out what is wrong with Hamlet, he says to them “I am but mad north-north-west.
When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw” ( II.ii. 356-357). Hamlet is telling them that he is only crazy when the wind is blowing from the north, which is where Denmark is. He wants them to believe that he is truly mad so they will not suspect his revenge plot against Claudius. Hamlet’s madness, which is a result of Claudius’s betrayal, also leads to the death of Ophelia.
Ophelia is Hamlet’s girlfriend who betrays him by telling his mother, Gertrude, about the love letters Hamlet had written to her. Hamlet is already upset with his mother for remarrying Claudius so soon after his father’s death, and this betrayal by Ophelia pushes him over the edge. Hamlet tells her “Get thee to a nunnery! Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?” ( III.i. 121-122).
Hamlet is telling her to go become a nun so she will not have any more children who will end up sinning, like Hamlet himself has done. Hamlet’s words are so harsh that they drive Ophelia insane and she eventually drowns herself. Hamlet’s madness, which was caused by Claudius’s betrayal, leads to the death of Ophelia; yet another example of how one act of betrayal can have far-reaching consequences.
Claudius, who was the most representative case of this terrible truth, provided a good illustration. Everything horrible that occurred throughout the narrative was caused, whether directly or indirectly, by his callous act. Claudius’ murder of his own brother in a vile ruse to deceive doomed everyone he came into touch with. Hamlet’s father’s death drove him insane and resulted in him swearing vendetta against Claudius.
Hamlet’s mother remarries Hamlet’s uncle, further enraging Hamlet. Ophelia goes insane and drowns herself. Laertes kills Hamlet thinking he killed his sister, when in reality it was Claudius who poisoned her. Lastly, Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poison sword and dies shortly after. If Claudius had just let his brother live then maybe, just maybe, all of this tragedy could have been avoided.
Betrayal is a central theme in Hamlet. Even though almost every character betrays someone or something at some point in the play, some acts of betrayal are more significant than others. Claudius’s murder of King Hamlet is by far the most significant act of betrayal in the play, as it is the catalyst for almost all of the other acts of betrayal and consequent tragedy that takes place. Hamlet’s mental state deteriorates rapidly after he learns of his father’s murder, and he becomes increasingly paranoid and suspicious of everyone around him.
Hamlet’s mother Gertrude betrays her husband by remarrying Claudius shortly after his death, further enraging Hamlet. Ophelia betrays Hamlet by betraying his trust and revealing his love for her to Claudius and Polonius. Laertes betrays Hamlet by joining forces with Claudius to kill him. Lastly, Hamlet himself betrays Horatio’s trust by refusing to tell him about the poisoned sword.
While all of these acts of betrayal are significant, none of them have the same far-reaching consequences as Claudius’s murder of King Hamlet. Every other act of betrayal in the play can be traced back to this one act, which makes it the most significant act of betrayal in Hamlet.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were supposed to be Hamlet’s pals. They were supposed to come in and check on him after a while. However, when requested to, they betrayed him swiftly. He discovered why they really traveled with him after they lied to him about their intentions. Their letters as assassins resulted in their deaths instead of his. Another bad consequence written to caution about the dangers of stealing someone else’s trust.
Gertrude Hamlet’s mother, she married Claudius shortly after the death of Hamlet’s father. Hamlet was very hurt by this and it made him question her love for him. He even goes as far as to say some pretty hurtful things to her. Even though she did wrong, Hamlet should have been more understanding considering the circumstances. Gertrude didn’t really seem to think about how Hamlet would feel when she got remarried so soon after his father died.
Claudius Hamlet’s uncle, he killed Hamlet’s father in order to take the throne and marry Hamlet’s mother. Claudius had a huge hand in Hamlet’s downfall. Hamlet had every right to be upset with him and to want revenge. Claudius poisoned Hamlet’s father, which caused his death. Hamlet was there when it happened and saw the entire thing. This act of betrayal is what started Hamlet’s spiral into madness.
As you can see, there are many acts of betrayal throughout the play Hamlet. Each one has different consequences ranging from death to insanity. These betrayals led to a lot of pain and suffering for Hamlet and those around him. They also serve as a warning to us all about the dangers of abusing someone else’s trust.