Deception in Hamlet

Deception is a critical component of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Its appears most significantly in Claudius concealing murder and Hamlet concealing knowledge of the same. Hamlet also feigns madness in order to misguide others and attempt to prove Claudius guilty. Others characters, including Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern all employ trickery as well to uncover the source of Hamlet’s apparent madness and report back to the dishonorable Claudius. The play’s conclusion suggests that deception will always result in destruction and tragedy.

Claudius effectively misleads members of the Danish court in order to discourage any skepticism that may result from his sudden takeover of power. Claudius asserts that he has not disqualified the courtiers’ “better wisdoms, which have freely gone / With this affair along” (I.ii.15-6), thus validating his apparently unlawful actions. Claudius’ persuasive yet misleading address is intended to justify his hasty marriage to Queen Gertrude and regard the death of Hamlet’s father as merely an unfortunate occurrence, not as a murder that he executed.

Not convinced by this story, Hamlet focuses on misleading and catching Claudius. Hoping to “catch the conscience of the King” (II.ii.634), Hamlet...

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