Hamlet: Hamlet The Idealist
In Hamlet, Elsinore is a society which people are seen acting in a
deceitful manner in order to gain personal measures and prestige. These people
mask their true in intentions to acquire selfish desires. In doing so they
develop a theme of the discrepancy between the way things appear and their true
, on the other hand, is an honest, moral individual trapped in
this deceitful society. Hamlet is faced with the dilemma to either lower
himself to their level by utilizing deception, or leave wrongs unrighted by
remaining true to himself. In Hamlet, the theme of appearance versus reality is
prevalent in Hamlet's decision between his morals and his father as he decides
to utilize the deceit of his society, starts recognizing it in others and
finally in using it to avenge his father.
When Hamlet is introduced he is seen acting as he feels and this is what
prevents him from repaying in kind for his father's murder. Hamlet grieves over
the loss of his father so long and intensely that no one understands, for
Gertrude and Claudius tell him he needs to move on like they have done, yet
Hamlet can't understand this. His actions are reflections of his true feelings
while the rest of his peers seem to be ignoring their grief. When Hamlet finds
out that he is supposed to kill Claudius for his father he becomes distraught.
This is because Hamlet's morals won't allow him to kill even if it releases Old
Hamlet from his purgatory. He later realizes that he must start appearing
differently than usual in order to carry out his father's word. Hamlet decides
to put on an "antic disposition" and in doing so has started becoming deceitful.
He is trying to mask his true feelings in order to prepare himself for his
When Hamlet starts being deceitful he starts to recognize the deceit in
others and how they make themselves appear differently from their realities.
Hamlets decision to put on an "antic disposition" was not honest to himself but
he felt that he must appear differently than he feels to fulfill his needs.
Hamlet first recognizes the deceit in Claudius after his father visits.
Claudius committed the sin of fratricide (especially horrendous in this
Christian society); but was now enjoying the fruits of his sin at the cost of
his community. He tricked Elsinore into thinking he was a good king who stepped
in to save the kingdom, yet in reality he was the cause of all the trouble.
Claudius knew he had done wrong, for he later laments his action, but was now
just, "smile[ing], and smile[ing], and be[ing] a villain"(IV 108). Hamlet now
had to choose to either disgrace his society by allowing a fake and murderer to
rule or to correct the unknown wrong. Secondly Hamlet suspected Rosencrantz and
Guildendtern of being manipulated by the deceptive king, so he checked the
letters on the way to England. In doing so he uncovered the fact that they
weren't the true friends they appeared to be. Hamlet found out that the king
had ordered for him to be executed so he changed the letter to order the deaths
of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead. Thus, Hamlet was now merging with his
society by utilizing deceit in order to kill and to find answers to his problems
and questions. This "antic disposition" was more a characteristic of his
society than of Hamlet but he felt it was necessary to cleanse his society of
this evil ruler.
Hamlet could finally allow himself to kill because of this deceit. In
III.4 Hamlet finally tries to kill the king while talking to his mother. Hamlet
had actually killed Polonioius, but he knew that he now had the ability to kill
Claudius. The lack of remorse Hamlet expresses over the deaths of Polonious,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern show the differences between his original grief
stricken appearance and his new reality. However, even though he was more
deceitful, he was still not completely changed from his original instinctively
trusting self. This is seen when Hamlet accepts Laertes' challenge after he
witnessed the situation between himself and Elsinore getting tense throughout
his "antic disposition." He naively accepts the duel and in doing so he gets
poisoned. To Hamlet the duel appeared as a recreational event but he reality
was that it killed him. When Hamlet finds out about the poisoned sword and wine
he finally kills Claudius, making him drink the wine, just as Claudius had done
to his mother and father. The deaths of Polonious, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern
and Claudius, who were all, "Hoist[ed] by their own petar[s]," show that it is
better to be truthful than deceitful; for ones' wicked ways will catch them.
Hamlet was originally an idealist
who believed he lived in a place where
appearance was reality but finally realized he was mistaken. Had Hamlet not
changed from his original appearance to his final reality, by using deceit, he
would have never been able to kill Claudius. However, if he had stayed true to
himself he still would have died without purging the corrupt from Elsinore nor
avenging his father's death, thus leaving his father's kingdom sullied, with no
hope for purification.