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William Shakespeare's, Hamlet is a tragedy of failure, the failure
of a man placed in circumstances and faced to deal with them successfully.
Shakespeare uses different techniques to develop the characters in Hamlet.
Throughout the play dramatic irony is used by allowing the audience to view
the true actions of the characters before the characters disclose them.
Shakespeare toys with the idea of appearances versus reality in the play,
among these are Claudius, the play within the play, and Rosencrantz and
Hamlet's father, the king of Denmark, has suddenly died. Claudius,
Hamlet's uncle, hastily marries Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, and more
importantly they become the new king and queen. King Claudius is viewed as
legitimately gaining control of the throne by everyone except Hamlet.
Hamlet knows that there is "something rotten in the state of Denmark." His
belief is verified when the guards inform him of a ghostly figure with
close resemblance to the late king. The ghost reveals to Hamlet that while
in the garden, Claudius poured poison in his ear. Claudius prays to be
forgiven but his prayers are not sincere. Claudius, overcome with guilt,
would prefer to keep his status then reveal what he did to King Hamlet.
The play within the play is useful because it allows Hamlet to
verify the validity of the ghost. Usually plays are intended for
entertainment purposes. The play is not real and the actors are playing a
role. In reality Hamlet makes it so that it is similar to what really
happened to his father. Hamlet even goes as far as to instruct the actors
appropriately. He will prove that the ghost is truthful by the reaction on
Claudius' face. The play appears to be harmless but it has a close parallel
to what really happened to the late King Hamlet.
Rosencrantz and Guildernstern, who are the king's spies, pretend to
be friends to Hamlet. The king has sent for them to investigate Hamlet's
madness and what he suspects about his father's death. This is a
contradiction because later Claudius says that Hamlet's troubles are
unknown. Hamlet not being the fool also pretends to be friends to
Rosencrantz and Guildernstern. He reveals to them that he is aware of their
intentions when he says "were you not sent for." Claudius, fearing Hamlet
knows too much sends him with Rosencrantz and Guildernstern to England to
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be executed. Hamlet changes the orders and has Rosencrantz and
Guildernstern executed. Hamlet appears to be friends with them but in
reality he has them killed.
Shakespeare uses the appearances versus reality as a way to create
irony in each character. The audience knows what the characters are
pretending to be. The audience enjoys the different characters reactions
when the truths are revealed. Claudius was not the legitimate king, the
play was supposed to resemble real life, and Rosencrantz and Guildernstern
were not true friends to Hamlet. Those are just a few of the many examples
of this technique in Hamlet.