Hamlet is based on a young prince of Denmark that must uncover the truth about his fathers death. Hamlet a play that tells the story of a young prince who’s father recently died. Hamlets uncle Claudius marries his mother the queen and takes the throne. As the play is told Hamlet finds out his father was murdered by the recently crowned king. The theme that remains constant throughout the play is appearance versus reality. Four of the main characters that this theme is best seen through are Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and the king Claudius.
They each give the impression of a person who is sincere and genuine, in reality they are plagued with lies and evil. There appearance will make it very difficult for Hamlet to uncover the truth. Polonius is constantly cncerned with his appearance. He always wants to keep up the appearance of loving and caring person. Polonius appears like a man who loves and cares about his son, Laertes. Polonius speaks to his son with advice that sounds sincere but in reality it is rehearsed, hollow and without feeling. Polonius gives his advice only to appear to be the loving caring father.
The reality of his actions is that he only speaks in order to appear sincere as a politician, to look good rather then actually be good. ” to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell; my blessing season this in thee! ” (Act 1). Polonius gives his son Laertes his blessing to go away and then sends a spy to follow him and keep an eye on him. This shows his lack of trust for anyone, he gives the appearance of a confident father who trusts his son to go off on his own.
In reality he lies about his trust for his son by sending a spy to watch him. Polonius further adds to the theme appearance verses reality by ordering Ophelia to stop seeing Hamlet. He lies to her telling her that Hamlet does not love her, he only lusts for her, in truth he does love her. “Ay, springes to catch woodcocks. I do know, When the blood burns , how prodigal the soul”. Through the play Polonius hids behind a fake identity appearing to be a honest loving parent. In reality Polonius lies, manipulates people and eavesdrops on peoples conversation.
Polonius helps contribute to the theme appearance verses reality by showing how his appearance is not his true nature, behind his fake “shield” of sorts, there lies someone totally different. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two of Hamlets childhood friends who when asked by the king , try to find out what is troubling the young prince. Both help to contribute to the theme by showing there appearance of being Hamlets friends and later tunring on him. The pair go to Hamlet pretending to be his friends when in truth they are only there because the king asked them to find the truth.
The two are asked by the king to find out the truth by hiding within a lie, by pretending to be his friend. Hamlet knows there purpose for their visit is to dig into his soul to find the real reason for his actions. As the play continues the men are asked again by the king to go to Hamlet and try again to find the real reason for Hamlet’s behavior. Hamlet insults them at every chance knowing they are lying to him about there purpose of the visit. “Tis as easy as lying; govern these ventages with you finger and thumb, give it breath with your mouth” (Act III)
As the play progresses, Hamlet is sent to England by the king. In actuality Hamlet is sent off to die because the king, Claudius is threatened by the actions of Hamlet. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern show there appearance of being Hamlet’s friends for the journey. The King’s conduct in council gives him the appearance of an Honest and honorable man. In Act one scene two Claudius in the presence of council shows his true skill and ease of manner at speaking. Claudius speaks well of the spent king by showing a general love for him by all his subjects. Claudius showed respect for old Hamlet by speaking kind words of him.
In reality he cares little for the old king, he speaks kindly only to give the appearance of loving brother. “Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death The memory be green, and that it us befitted To bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom To be contracted in one brow of woe” (Act I). On another note, Claudius speaks highly of Polonius giving him thanks and saying the he was responsible for his becoming king “The head is not more native to the heart, The hand more instrumental to the mouth, Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father. What woudlst thou have, Laertes” (Act I ii, 47-50).
This council would see this as a man who greatly respects his subjects and cares for them. This adds to the difficulty of uncovering the truth for Hamlet later on in the play. Hamlet enters the council chamber and speaks with Claudius who speaks with Hamlet seeming to be concerned with what he has to say. He gives advice that grieveing is not healthy, which shows a concern for Hamlets well being. This conduct of Claudius gives him the appearance of being kind in front of council that accepts him even more for his family values: The characters in the play all help to show the theme of appearance verses reality.
Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and the king all appear to be good and honest. As Hamlet finds out, however, that they all are made of lies and have hidden intentions within them. Hamlet had stated it the best by stating that something is rotten in Denmark. That something in fact being the lies which have replaced or covered the true state of each character. While many characters were noble and true such as Horatio, others were not and reality caught up with them. After hiding behind a “mask” of lies, there appearence broke into pieces revealing who they truly were.