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The Deceit of Hamlet
Deceit is often used in politics and everyday life to acquire power and success. The theme of deceit is often repeated in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet’s hesitation in killing Claudius, and Hamlet’s eventual death are a direct result of deceit in the court. Hamlet tries to deceive everyone into thinking that he is crazy. He believes that with this "antic disposition" he can kill Claudius without any consequences, and avenge his father’s death. When Cladius and Polonius hear of Hamlet’s madness, they decide to find out the reason behind it. They spy on Hamlet to figure out why he is acting this way. Through this Cladius learns that Hamlet is dangerous, and a threat to him. Hamlet’s trickery also leads to the death of Ophelia and her father Polonius. As well as triggering Laertes to seek revenge on Hamlet for causing the death of his family. After several attempts to kill Hamlet fail, Claudius teams up with Laertes and tries to murder Hamlet once and for all. Each of these plans directly or indirectly cause Hamlet’s death.
After Hamlet talks to the ghost of his father, he finds out that Claudius killed him to gain the throne of Denmark. Hamlet has to get revenge by killing Claudius. To do this, he must act insane to draw away suspicion from himself. Hamlet says to Hortaio "How strange or odd some’er I bear myslef as I perchanse hereafter shall think meet to put an antic dispostion on,"(I;v;170-172), this indicates that from this moment Hamlet will act insane. He believes this way he will be able to kill the king and get away with it. Polonius becomes aware of Hamlet’s madness and wants to uncover the reason behind it. He says "Mad let us grant him then, and now remains, that we find out the cause of this defect, for this effect defective comes by cause."(II;ii;100-103). Claudius and Polonius spy on Hamlet and Ophelia as they talk. After hearing their conversation Claudius says "And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose will be some danger; which for to prevent, I have in quick determination thus set it down: he shall with speed to England"(III;i;163-166). This means that Claudius is starting to believe Hamlet is dangerous and wants to send him to England. From this point Claudius is very suspicious of Hamlet, he suspects that Hamlet is plotting against him, he says, "Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.
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Hamlet must also fool Ophelia, the woman he loves. Hamlet must make Ophelia believe that he does not love her anymore by insulting her. This is evident when Hamlet says "Get thee to a nunnery."(III;i;120,135) there is a pun on the word "nunnery", which in this case means whore-house. In this quotation Hamlet implies that Ophelia is not chaste. He rejects his love for her when he says, "You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I love you not." (II; i; 116-117). Ophelia believes that Hamlet is mad, as she says, "O what a noble mind is there o'erthrown!…That unmatched form and feature of blown youth blasted with ecstacy." (III; i; 156). She is really distraught to see Hamlet in such a state, because she does care for him. Hamlet’s harsh treatment, rejection, as well as the death of her father, Polonius, causes her to go insane. Ophelia sings two songs that suggest she is distraught over the death of her father and her lost love, Hamlet. "He is dead and gone…at his head a grass-green turf, at his heel a stone,"(IV;v;29-32), "To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day. All in the morning betime, and I am a maid at your window, to be your Valentine. Then up he rose and donned his clo'es and dupped the chamber door, let in the maid that out a maid. Never departed more."(IV;v;48-55). Laertes returns to Denmark after the death of his father. He vows he will sacrifice his soul to revenge his father's murder. This is what he means as he says, "I'll not be judgged with to hell allegiance, vows to the blackest devil, conscience and grace to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation to this point I stand, that both the worlds I give to negligence, Let come what comes, only I'll be revenged most throughly for my father."(IV;v;129-134).
Claudius decides to use Laertes' hate for Hamlet to his advantage. Claudius says, "and you must put me in your heart for friend, sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear, that he which hath your noble father slain pursued my life."(IV;vii;1-4). This suggests to Laertes that they should allie themselves against Hamlet. Claudius thinks of a plan to kill Hamlet in a way that will leave them both appearing innocent. He states to Laertes "a sword unbated, and, in a pass of practise, requite him for your father."(IV;vii;135-137). This means that Claudius wants Laertes to duel Hamlet with a sharp pointed sword, and not with a sword that is tipped for safety during dueling. Laertes agrees, but he will also put poison on the tip of the sword so that the smallest scratch will cause Hamlet to die, "I will do't and for that purpose I'll anoint my sword. I bought an unction of a mountebank, so mortal that, but a dip a knife in it, where it drowns blood no cataplasm so rare, collected from all simples that have virtue under the moon, can save the thing from death that is but scratched withal."(IV;vii;138-144). As Laertes and Hamlet duel both of them are wounded with the poisoned sword, when they realize that they will die soon the truth is revealed. Laertes tells Hamlet of the plan he had with Claudius and forgives him for the death of his father.