As the young prince of Denmark, Hamlet, tries to uncover the truth of his father’s death, he has no one to turn to. Many of the characters within the play appear to be genuine and honest but are really infested with evil. Not knowing who is actually genuine and honest, Hamlet trusts no one. Shakespeare develops a theme of appearance vs. reality where Hamlet’s dedication to the truth is stressed in contrast to the appearance which others serve. Many of the characters seem to hide behind masks, which give the impression they are sincere and genuine, when in reality they are plagued with lies and evil, notably Claudius.
In order for the truth to be revealed Hamlet must disguise himself and real motives to find out what is real and what not. From the very beginning Hamlet questions the motives of his uncle Claudius, who has just married Gertrude, his mother the queen. As the plays goes on he finds his father was murdered by the newly crowned king. Hamlet cannot share his feelings with his mother because she is literally sleeping with the enemy. This is where Hamlet’s distrust begins. He uses the expression “shows of grief. that a man might play. “, to develop the theme of appearance vs. reality while referring to Claudius.
He realizes that Claudius is willing to do anything to stay king of Denmark, obviously including betraying Gertrude. Gertrude believes that Claudius loves Hamlet, when on the contrary Claudius hates him and is plotting his murder. Hamlet knows he cannot trust the other woman in his life, Ophelia, because she has taken the side of Claudius because of her father Polonius. There is no real reason that Polonius has given Ophelia not to trust him because Polonius has always given the illusion of being a loving caring father. Polonius, however, is only interested in the appearances of things.
Polonius tries to convince Ophelia that Hamlet does not love her, only lusts after her. He cannot conceive the fact that Hamlet really does love Ophelia. Or- not to crack the wind of the poor phase, Running it thus- you’ll tender me a fool. He thinks only of himself and shows this. He is more interested in his public image then his daughters welfare. Polonius’ mentality is shown through his son. His greatness weigh’d, his will is no his own; For he himself is subject to his birth. Carve for himself, for on his choice depends The sanity and health of the whole state
Laertes refers to Hamlet as not being a private person but a public one. Whatever he does has public concern. Ophelia’s family is anti-Hamlet which makes Ophelia biased and makes Hamlet not able to fully trust her. The ghost is something else that Hamlet is not sure that he can trust. Hamlet’s has doubts about the nature of the ghost. Hamlet realizes that if he merely ups and kills Claudius and avenges the death of his father the ghost, he would definitely have been tried and put to death. This would leave the people with no king, and a war would probably break out.