Within Hamlet the notion of appearances (through apparitions and mental afflictions) lies in direct dichotomy of reality. This becomes evident through both plot and character. The continual demise in Hamlet’s mental state is an important issue which leads us to question his actions and motives within the play. In this essay I shall be attempting to elucidate how the reality of appearances is a central theme.
The play's plot is full of incidents and events that are not what they appear to be. One such incident is Ophelia's ambiguous death. When, from the Queen, the audience first learns of her passing, the girl's death seems very peaceful, poetic and accidental. But later, during the Graveyard Scene, when the clowns are discussing her death, they classify it as a suicide. Does Ophelia, as it appears, absent-mindedly set foot too far into the murky waters and, held down by her heavy garments, meets with her untimely death? Or, does she, mad with grief caused by Hamlet's "insanity" and her father's death, willingly march to her muddy grave? Another example occurs when Laertes, Ophelia's brother, and King Claudius devise the Triple-Pronged plan. They set up a duel between Hamlet and Laertes. Since both young men are presumably using bated swords, this confrontation appears to be a simple, ordinary fencing match, no one will get hurt. Despite its harmless...
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...etations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York City: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 65-86
Findlay, Alison. "Hamlet: A Document in Madness." New Essays on Hamlet. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and John Manning. New York: AMS Press, 1994. 189-205.
Hopkins, Lisa. "Parison and the Impossible Comparison." New Essays on Hamlet. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and John Manning. New York: AMS Press, 1994. 153-164.
Rose, Mark. "Reforming the Role." Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York City: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 117-128
Wiggins, Martin. "Hamlet Within the Prince." New Essays on Hamlet. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and John Manning. New York: AMS Press, 1994. 209-226.
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