Keeping Up Appearances

This is my first time reading Hamlet. I knew something about a ghost, and something about a prince, and Denmark, and a few other things like that. And the language in this act was a big challenge for me, so I was genuinely surprised when I found out that Claudius had killed Hamlet’s father (1.5.74-79) [Unless there is a MAJOR PLOT TWIST coming up that will shock me even further].

While I was reading Claudius’ long talk to Hamlet, about how he would be as a father to him, and telling him to “throw to earth This prevailing woe” (1.2.106-107), I felt bad for him. Hamlet is not very gracious to his new step-father or mother. I rolled my eyes at his first soliloquy, when Hamlet claims to be so upset that he would kill himself if it wasn’t for God’s “Fixed…canon ‘gainst self-slaughter” (1.2.131-132).

However, when I discovered that Claudius had, in fact, been the cause of Hamlet’s father’s death, I realized that I had been fooled by his gentle words. This reminded me strongly of Iago from Othello. If we had not been aided by Iago’s asides, telling us of his hatred for Othello: “I do hate him as I do hell pains” (Othello, 1.1.155), we would be inclined to believe Iago when he says “My lord, you know I love you” (3.3.121). In a similar fashion, Claudius gives off an appearance of gentle love: “With no less nobility of love Than that which dearest father bears his son Do I impart towards you” (1.2.110-112). Yet we discover Hamlet’s father was killed by Claudius!

Shakespeare writes his dialogue in such painful ways that we, the outsiders, can see the irony and tension being created by the villains, while the characters in the play are fooled and almost seduced by the same. Good luck Hamlet.


4 thoughts on “Keeping Up Appearances

  1. elainemarina24

    This is also my first time reading Hamlet, and actually the first time I study Shakespeare in general. I am realizing that Shakespeare’s works are in fact quite disturbing. This has to be by far the most disturbing of them all. Killing your own brother and then marrying his wife only a month later?! Not to mention the way he killed him. I almost feel like comparing Shakespeare to Stephen King because this is such a horrific plot. I’m glad I am not the only one reading Hamlet for the first time!

    1. Elizabeth Browne

      I totally got that feel bad type feeling for Hamlet as well. This isn’t my first time reading Hamlet, but the first time I did read it was in High School a.k.a. this might as well be my first time reading it. You will continue to be more and more shocked by what is presented in Hamlet. Like, elainemarina24 said it’s a truly horrifying plot that will continue to disturb you in some way, shape, or form. That compassion for Hamlet might alter a bit as the play goes on, although a bit of “looking out” always does seem to occur for me when looking into Shakespeare’s protagonists. I hope you enjoy the rest of this, regardless of how horrific the plot it. You made great, valid, and relatable points!

  2. David Young

    This is also my first time reading Hamlet. I have to agree with anika, I had a hard time with the language as well. Though I tend to struggle with Shakespeare’s language in general. I completely agree about Claudius, he’s very deceiving. He seems like a great guy at first and then you learn the truth about his involvement in Hamlet I’s death. This guy is sick. But I’m not sure if I’d say he’s one of the worst characters, though he’s high up there. I’m thinking of Richard; unless I’m mixing something up, Richard killed Lady Anne’s husband and then convinced her to marry him. Granted it wasn’t his brother but that is still pretty twisted. I also see the similarity to Othello; if not for the asides, the audience would not get the full picture of some characters

  3. irenecorvinus

    The language in Hamlet is definitely one of the most difficult out of all the Shakespeare plays I’ve read. I think it’s in part due to the allusions that the character of Hamlet is constantly making and part due to the fact that at times he is pretending to be insane. The allusions make sense when we think of his character as a scholar though.

    I also have to agree that at times, you do want to roll your eyes at Hamlet. Even as the play progresses, I have to admit he is not my favorite protagonist. He often seems rather pretentious as a character, but then I have to remind myself that he is going through a death and Claudius is the villain of the play.

    I also really enjoyed your comparison of Claudius to Iago – it wasn’t something I had thought of before, but now I can easily see the connections and how the two characters use language to their benefit.


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