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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A paradox is a concept, statement, or idea that seems to contradict itself but when examined closely, it provides new insight or understanding. The deeper meaning emerges. Paradoxes can contain two statements that are both true when standing alone. However, when taken together they make the reader question their validity. It does not seem that both statements can be true at the same time or under the same circumstances.

A famous paradox is a quote by Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Hamlet says, “I must be cruel to be kind.” How can he be cruel and kind at the same time? You will find this paradox repeated in pop music. In Hamlet’s case, he is referring to retaliating for his father’s death by killing his mother’s current husband. Hamlet thinks his cruel act of killing will ultimately be a kindness to his mother.