Traps and Deception in Hamlet

When Hamlet’s father orders him to kill Claudius, Hamlet’s reaction is one of questioning and disbelief. While he feels strongly about the murder of his father and yearns to discover the killer, he harbors suspicions about the truth behind the ghost’s jarring indictment of his uncle Claudius. So, Hamlet decides to put on a play: a trap to expose the potentially sullied conscience of the king. Without examining the results of this scheme, its basic structure is one used by nearly every character in the play. They do not immediately accost the culprit; rather, the characters set up small, contained traps and patiently wait for the results. These traps are not always dire, seen in Polonius’s plan to discover Hamlet’s intentions in loving Ophelia. In a wider scope, the play as a whole is a deeply intertwined and complex web of traps and plots, from which only Horatio escapes by the end of the play. As a commentary on human behavior, Shakespeare includes this theme to indicate that there is always a winner and a loser, or in Polonius’s terms, a springe and a woodcock. However, ironically, the winner is not always the spy and the loser is not always the culprit. As a result, the line between hero and villain does not remain...

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