Analyze how the deceit that surrounds Hamlet impacts on his ability to avenge his father's death. Is duplicity is one of the themes of the play?

1 Answer | Add Yours

robertwilliam's profile pic

robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

I'd argue that the reason the duplicity of the Danish court affects Hamlet is that it creates a real problem about whether you can believe what you see.

O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables—meet it is I set it down
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I am sure it may be so in Denmark.

One may smile - and still be a villain. Appearances can be deceptive, so deceptive that even Hamlet had not really suspected Claudius of being the murderer (despite the fact he sort of claims he had - "my prophetic soul"...).

Point being, the audience don't suspect it either. Claudius has been very charming in Act 1, Scene 2, and has shown no real signs of being a sinister, plotting murderer. It's not until his prayer scene that we actually realise that he has in fact done it.

Because Hamlet doesn't trust the ghost. Nor do we:

The spirit I have seen
May be a devil, and the devil hath power
T'assume a pleasing shape ... (2.2.596-8)

The ghost, Claudius, Polonius (who seems a foolish, fond old man, but is in fact a sinister manipulator), his mother, Ophelia (women "jig, amble, and... lisp... nickname God's creatures", and wear make up - a sign that they can't be trusted!) - no-one, apart from Horatio is straightforward and honest.

Duplicity is undoubtedly a theme. And it stops Hamlet from revenging because it's so difficult to see the truth. How can he tell what happened to his father? How can he know?

We’ve answered 317,520 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question