Reality and Illusion in Shakespeare's Hamlet - Reality, Appearance and Deception

Reality and Illusion in Shakespeare's Hamlet - Reality, Appearance and Deception

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Reality and Illusion in Hamlet

 
Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, begins with the appearance of a ghost, an apparition, possibly a hallucination. Thus, from the beginning, Shakespeare presents the air of uncertainty, of the unnatural, which drives the action of the play and develops in the protagonist as a struggle to clarify what only seems to be absolute and what is actually reality. Hamlet's mind, therefore, becomes the central force of the play, choosing the direction of the conflict by his decisions regarding his revenge and defining the outcome.

Shakespeare begins Hamlet's struggle with recognition of Hamlet's sincere grief and anger following his father's untimely death. A taste of the conflict is expressed in the dialogue between Hamlet and his mother, Gertrude. Here Hamlet forcefully declares his pain and adds a discerning remark that defines seems as "actions that a man might play." (I.2 ln 84) By acknowledging Hamlet's comprehension of the separation between appearances and truth, Shakespeare gives the audience a reasonable belief in Hamlet's eventual success despite the obstacles he creates for himself.
 
Developing a convincing scheme by which to determine the goodness of the ghost and to achieve revenge is Hamlet's first action. Hamlet asks his friend Horatio to refrain from commenting on any strange behavior he may exhibit in the future. (I.5 ln 170-179) Later in the play, Hamlet alludes to his actual sanity when conversing with his school friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. "I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw." (II.2 ln 377-378) After adequately concealing his intentions, Hamlet begins to doubt his own character. He compares himself to an actor who...


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...struggle for revenge. Nevertheless, the central driving force of the play remains Hamlet's mind. The new king, Fortinbras, assures the audience that Hamlet "was likely, had he been put on, to have proved most royal." (V.2 ln 391-392)
 
Works Cited and Consulted:

Heilman, Robert B. "The Role We Give Shakespeare." Essays on Shakespeare. Ed. Gerald Chapman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965.

Levin, Harry. General Introduction. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.

Mack, Maynard. "The World of Hamlet." Yale Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html

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