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Kidder Gowen
Mrs. Rosa
English 12
April 24, 2011
Hamlet Benchmark
In Shakespeare’s well known play Hamlet, almost every character commits an act
of deception. These self- serving acts of dishonesty cause Hamlet to not be able to trust
anyone and then his own “tragic” flaw takes over and he finds himself doubting and
mistrusting even himself. Hamlet’s suspicion and mistrust of everyone around him leads
to his own suspicion and doubt of himself which leads to bad judgment and ultimately
leads to his tragic ending.
The first major piece of diception the reader encounters in the play is King
Claudius’ lie to everyone about the death of King Hamlet. Hamlet learns this information
in Act 1, Scene 5 from the ghost of his father:
Now Hamlet, hear. ‘Tis given out that , sleeping in
my orchard, A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of
Denmark is by forged process of my death rankly abused.
But know, thou noble youth, the serpent that did sting thy
father’s life now wears his crown. (1.5.24)
Hamlet can’t believe his ears when he hears this news. He asks, “murder?” and screams
“My uncle!”. Hamlet is completely shaken by this news, to him it has come out of now
where and on top of it this new responsibilty to uphold his father’s request for revenge, is
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all very duanting. Hamlet is disgusted by his father and can’t help but to have some of the
same feelings for his mother.
O most pernicious woman! O villain, villain,
smiling, damned villian! My tables – meet it is I set it down
that one amy smile, and smile, and be a villian; at least I’m
sure it may be so in Denmark. So, uncle, there you are.
Now to my word. It is ‘Adieu, adieu, remember me. I have
sworn’t. (1.5.26)
King Claudius’ act of deception leads to Hamlet’s complete distrust of him and the pact
of revenge he has made with his father will soon show Hamlet’s weakness. He will doubt
himself and he will doubt the ghost. Hamlet will even give Claudius’ a chance to prove
himself, and he will give him many chances to escape revenge.
After Hamlet learns the truth of his father’s death he looses trust in everyone,
except his good friend Horatio who has never proven himself untrustworthy. He was the
first to come to Hamlet about the ghost, and was there every step of the way throughout
the play. Hamlet consults many of his thoughts with Horatio espcially due to the fact that
he doesn’t trust himself completely so he always need a second opinion, an example is
the play Hamlet has put on in order, as he puts it to “catch the conscience of the King”.
Basically Hamlet looses faith in the apparition, he looses faith in what his own eyes have
seen, he doesn’t trust his insticts. He wants a way to test King Claudius and he finds this
in the play.
The sprit that I have seen May be the devil: and the
devil hath power To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and
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perhaps Out of my weakness and melancholy, As he is very
potent with such sprits, Abuses me to damn me: I’ll have
grounds More relative than this: the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King. (2.2.50)
After an obvious display of guilt by the King, Hamlet still finds the need to ask Horatio
what he thought of it. This shows his obvious mistrust of himself. He the lacks
confidence to take inicitive and do what he knows is right.
Hamlet looses trust even in those he loves. He feels betrayed by Ophelia, her
loyalty to her father is what drove Hamlet to feel this way. In Act 3, Scene 1 the King and
Polonius spy on Hamlet and they recruit Ohplelia to help out. Hamlet knows something is
fishy right from the start and even asks Ophelia, just to see her reaction, “ Where’s your
father?” (3.1.55). She procedes to lie to him giving him even further of a reason not to
trust her Hamlet is so hurt by her betrayal that he goes on to say horrible insults just
because he can. In the end of the play the reader learns Hamlet’s true feelings for Ophelia
he says, “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers/ Could not, with all their quantity of
love,/ make up my sum.” (5.1.108) Hamlet claims that he would have done anything for
her, even eat a crocodile. These signs of affaction are quite a change from earlier in the
play when Hamlet shows Ophelia no sort of compassion at all.
Hamlet is constantly finding reasons to delay revenge, another example of this is
right after the play. Hamlet has the King in a position to take revenge in the confession
booth but doesn’t take it. Hamlet has the proof that the King in truth is guilty of the crime
the ghost accused him of and yet, he delay’s the promise he made to his father even
further. Hamlet wouldn’t let the king go to heaven after being able to confess his sins
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properly while his father was damned. He would instead wait for another opportunity, at
least he claims it so.
To take him in the purging of his soul, When he is fit and
season’d for his passage? No. Up, sword, and know thou a
more horrid hent. (3.3.71)
When Hamlet is on his way to the ship that will take him to England he runs into
Fortinbras’ Captian. The news he gives of Fortinbras and his army makes Hamlet take a
look at his own act of revenge and how it’s not going nearly as well.
Now whether it be Bestial oblivion, or some craven
scruple of thinking too precisely on the event – A thought
which, quarter’d, hath but one part wisdom and ever three
parts coward. (4.4.85)
Hamlet acknowledges that he has been thinking too much and therefore delaying revenge
and he admits himself to be a coward for this, he says that he has thought enough and he
is really pushing the limit. He goes to say that he has all the just reason in the world to
take revenge and yet he still hasn’t been able to do it. He then finds strength in
Fortinbras’ march to Poland and says, “O, from this time forth,/ My thoughts be bloody,
or be nothing worth,” (4.4.86). Supossedly Hamlet has found the inspriation and strength
that he needs in order to kill the King and take revenge for his father. Hamlet’s solioque
shows how Hamlet can’t do anything on his own because he doesn’t trust himself, he is
so indicisive even about life in general. Hamlet needs examples and other peoples
opinions in order to get anything done.
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In the end, Hamlet, the Queen, Laertes, and the King are all killed by of course an
act of deception and ironically and act of diception created by two of the people it killed,
Laertes and the King. When Hamlet finds his inspiration from Fortinbras he claims he
thinks too much so in return stops thinking a little too much in order to compensate for
lost time. He starts misjudging things, an example is how he has Rosecrantz and
Guildenstern killed. This act was completely unessisary, It shows has become a little too
much blood thirst. Another example, and is what gets him killed, is agreeing to the duel.
Hamlet knows he has no reason to trust the King and yet he does. This seems crazy for
Hamlet to do after the events of the play. After Hamlet knows the King wants him dead
and that he is deceptive and tricky and very willing to kill. It is because Hamlet has ruled
out thinking, it’s all insticnts now which is a very risky thing to do and in Hamlet’s case
Hamlet has many flaws that make his path to revenge a very complicated and
tragic one. In the beginning of the play and througout most of it Hamlet finds himself
thinking too much and having no confidence in his own actions. After he finds inspiration
in Fortinbras, Hamlet throws out thinking completely he realizes what hes been doing
hasn’t been working therefore something must change. He finds himself working on
instinct and often our insticts can lead us astray esecially if we are as unstable as our
young Hamlet has proven himself many a time to be. In the end Hamlet does get his
revenge but it came with the cost of his life.
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