Trickery and Deception in Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Trickery and Deception in Hamlet
Trickery and deception are two devices that are demonstrated frequently throughout the Hamlet universe. First and foremost, Claudius, King Hamlet’s brother, murders King Hamlet to steal the throne of Denmark. Claudius tricked the entire kingdom, and deceived young Hamlet and his mother. Claudius murders the late King Hamlet by pouring poison into his ear while he slept in the castle’s orchard. Claudius proceeds to lie about his true actions to everyone, claims the throne of Denmark, and marries Gertrude, the late king’s widow and mother to young Hamlet. The new king of Denmark realizes his wrongs, but cannot feel sorrow for the atrocities that he has committed. Claudius attempts to speak to God and right his wrongs, but he realizes how much he loves his new life and everything that he has gained after murdering his brother. Claudius is alone when he decides he should speak to God and confess his sins; he decides to pray out loud. The new king proclaims that “My Fault is past. But oh, what form of prayer can serve my turn, “Forgive me my foul murder?” That cannot be, since I am still possessed of those effects for which I did the murder: My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen” (Shakespeare 188). This demonstrates that Claudius has no real feelings of guilt, or remorse, for his actions against his late brother. Claudius believes he murdered his brother out of his own ambition, and has rightfully earned the crown and everything that he has gained through his brother’s death.
At the same time, Claudius devises a plan to send young Hamlet to his death in England. While Claudius is reaping the spoils of his newfound position on the throne, he is realizing that Hamlet may become a direct threat to his livelihood. The new king slowly realizes that Hamlet is no longer lovesick, and is beginning to find mental clarity. Young Hamlet has also learned of what Claudius has done with the completion of the play, where Claudius was visibly distraught during the reenactment of the murder of the late king of Denmark. Claudius decides to protect himself by sending Hamlet to his death in England. Once again, Hamlet is a victim of Claudius’ trickery; he is completely and utterly unaware that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, childhood friends of young Hamlet, carry the letter ordering his own execution.
Finally, Hamlet, deceiving Claudius and tricking the King of England, finds and rewrites his own execution letter, which now instructs the executioner to put Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to death. On the voyage to England Hamlet’s ship was beset by pirates who were kind to him and returned him to Denmark. Hamlet was able to deceive Claudius by finding the letter calling for his execution, and rewriting so that it called for the execution of those who carried the letter. Hamlet goes on to later tell Horatio that he feels no remorse for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who betrayed him and followed the orders of Claudius.
To reiterate, trickery and deception are two devices which are used commonly throughout Hamlet. This play was written on the foundations of deception and trickery, as the reader can observe throughout many acts in the play. These two devices make up a large portion of the story, and without them the story would not evolve in the way that it does.
Young Hamlet’s Complexity in Hamlet
Young Hamlet’s complexity shines throughout Shakespeare’s Hamlet. More than anything, Hamlet wishes to get revenge for his father’s death, but until the end of the play, is far too cowardly. Hamlet immediately develops a thirst for the blood of Claudius after learning that he has murdered his father. Time and time again Hamlet has opportunities to murder Claudius, as he murdered his father, but Hamlet is unable to ever follow through with his plans. The reader is able to see how cowardly Hamlet truly is after the death of Polonius, the father of Laertes and Ophelia. Hamlet stabs Polonius, and Laertes is immediately, without hesitation, ready to kill Hamlet and avenge his father’s dishonorable death. The difference between the two characters are night and day. The reader is able to observe that Hamlet wishes to kill Claudius, but Laertes truly is ready to kill Hamlet, which allows the reader to view Hamlet in all of his cowardice. Only once Claudius has accidentally poisoned Gertrude is Hamlet able to find the courage to put his father’s murderer to death.
Strangely enough, even while being a coward, and at one point contemplating suicide, Hamlet’s ego and God complex never fail to impress. Throughout the play Hamlet is dealing with a massive bout of depression. Hamlet’s own uncle, a blood relative, has grotesquely murdered his father, and married his mother only two months after the death of his father. To make matters even worse for young Hamlet, Claudius decided to have himself crowned as king rather than Hamlet, who was the rightful heir to the throne. Hamlet is severely depressed, but he puts on a “mask” and attempts to plot the revenge that his late father deserves. Hamlet even starts acting quite arrogant, and the reader is able to observe this when Hamlet stabs Polonius and tells Claudius to search for Polonius in hell himself, but send someone else to search for him in Heaven because he is not worthy enough to enter such a holy place. These actions are confusing, and quite out of place, for a character that seemed to be losing his battle with depression when he contemplated taking his own life not much earlier in the play. Hamlet believes he is alone when he makes his speech proclaiming that it may be better to die than to suffer any longer. Hamlet recognizes how unfair life is, but he acknowledges that death is temporary, and may be even worse. Hamlet declares “To be, or not to be? That is the question – Whether ‘tis nobler in mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep…” (Shakespeare 138). This shows that behind Hamlet’s arrogance and ego, he truly is as lost as one can possible be. Hamlet would almost rather die and give up his right to Heaven than to face the challenges of life.
Above all, young Hamlet’s emotions evolve throughout Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet begins as a young man filled with uncertainty and self-doubt. Young Hamlet is balancing the death of his father, the loss of his would-be position as king, the remarriage of his mother, his struggling relationship with Ophelia, and eventually the knowledge that his father was murdered by his own uncle. This is an immense hurdle to get over for Hamlet, and, rightfully so, the reader sees him struggling with this balancing act of emotions. Hamlet eventually transforms through three stages of recognizable emotions. The first of those is sadness and despair in the beginning of the play. Hamlet is overwhelmed with everything that has happened, and his entire world has been turned upside down. Hamlet eventually progressing to the second stage, which is insanity and madness. The grief-stricken Hamlet pretends to act crazy to investigate the death of his father, and even contemplates suicide at this point in the play. The third and final stage is revenge in its entirety. Hamlet finally overcomes the emotional obstacles that have been keeping him from exacting his revenge. By the end of the play, the reader is able to see Hamlet has transformed his cowardice into bravery as he finally avenges his father’s death by killing Claudius.
For all of these reasons, young Hamlet’s complexity shines throughout Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet transforms through a series of emotions and develops into the man that he wished he could have been in the beginning of the play. Hamlet is a complex character in a simple “revenge play” genre. This character has many intricacies that can easily be missed if not carefully observed and studied.
Claudius wronging Hamlet in Hamlet
In the Shakespearean play Hamlet, Claudius wrongs young Hamlet in numerous ways. Firstly, Claudius kills Hamlet’s father, and strips Hamlet of his rightful crown and place on the throne of Denmark. Claudius poisons King Hamlet, and strips young Hamlet, heir to the crown, from his rightful place on the throne. Claudius decides to crown himself while also deciding to marry Hamlet’s mother only two months after the death of the late king. These actions lead the reader to believe that Claudius was envious of his brother, and he wanted to live every aspect of the life that his brother led. The only clear motive for the murder of the late King Hamlet is pure jealousy.
Afterwards, Claudius attempts to have young Hamlet executed. Hamlet is growing stronger mentally and is preparing more and more each day to exact his revenge on Claudius. In hopes of saving his own life, Claudius send Hamlet to England to be executed, only to have Hamlet foil his plan. Claudius clearly shows no regard for any human life but his own. If someone has something that Claudius wanted, he murders them, which was established with King Hamlet’s death. If someone is a threat to Claudius, he has them executed, or at least attempts to, which was established when Claudius attempted to send Hamlet to his death in England.
Lastly, Claudius is responsible for Gertrude’s death. Laertes and Claudius devise a plan to kill Hamlet, but an unsuspecting bystander is caught in the crossfire. Claudius and Laertes decide host a fencing match where Hamlet will surely die. There is a fencing sword dipped in poison, and goblets of wine with poison in the drink. Young Hamlet scores the first and second hits on Laertes, and to celebrate Gertrude drinks from the poisoned goblet meant solely for Hamlet. Gertrude has been poisoned and no medicine on Earth can save her; Claudius’ foolishness has cost him his own wife, and Hamlet’s own mother and last living parent. Laertes is overwhelmed with guilt; he has a change of heart and comes clean to Hamlet about their plan “It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain. No medicine in the world can do thee good. In thee there is not half an hour of life. The treacherous instrument is in thy hand, unbated and envenomed. The foul practice hath turned itself on me. Lo, here I lie, never to rise again. Thy mother’s poisoned. I can no more. The king, the king’s to blame.” (Shakespeare 328). This demonstrates the lengths to which Claudius was willing to go to protect the crown that he felt he deserved after atrociously murdering his own brother. Claudius was prepared to take Hamlet’s life, and wrong him the most ultimate way, if it meant saving himself and his position as king. Claudius meant to poison Hamlet, but instead poisoned Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. In a turn of events Laertes was poisoned along with Hamlet after they switched swords. Laertes, realizing he is going to die along with Hamlet, knows that he must clear his conscience. Laertes wished to kill Hamlet more than anything to get revenge for the death of his father, but even he was able to see how wrong this plan had gone. This shows how truly evil Claudius was. Laertes wanted to kill Hamlet, but before death empathized with him.
Consequently, in the Shakespearean play Hamlet, Claudius wrongs young Hamlet in numerous ways. Claudius was an evil man with a soul the color of tar. Claudius would stop at nothing to find a way to ensure he always had what he wanted. Even in death Claudius was not remorseful. Claudius not only wronged Hamlet in numerous ways, but everyone that died during the course of the play. The deaths of every character can be traced back the the heinous murder of King Hamlet committed by his own brother, Claudius.
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