Final Paper III
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 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.