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Hamlet Essay

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Although many works of literature are very long, the main idea can be summarized in one or two of its lines. In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, the most important line is: "This above all, to thine own self be true, / And it must follow, as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man" (1.3, 78-80). Spoken by Polonius, this advice is present throughout the entire play, together with the motifs of truth and lying. The characters desire to be true to themselves; however, some of them are not true to others.

The main character, Hamlet, is a character that is not true to others, nor to himself. When the Ghost of his father tells him he was murdered by Claudius, Hamlet doubts the truth. He does not trust the ghost of his father, so has to find a way to prove it. Deciding on how to prove or disprove the Ghost, Hamlet predicts: "The play's the thing / Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King" (2.2, 616-17). Because he distrusts the Ghost, Hamlet is not true to his father. However, when his plan proves to him that the Ghost's words are true, Hamlet still does not act; he still cannot avenge his father's murder. Hamlet decides not to kill Claudius, using the fact that he is praying as an excuse. Hamlet does not want Claudius's soul to go to heaven, therefore he decides not to kill him, explaining: "A villain kills my father, and for that, I, his sole son, do the same villain send to heaven" (3.3, 76-78). However, after trying to pray, the King claims that his prayers were not heard: "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. / Words without thoughts never to heaven go" (3.3, 97-8). Therefore, had Hamlet chosen to kill Claudius at that time, his soul would have gone to Hell. Hamlet uses God as an excuse for not acting. He is not true and is lying to himself, because he wants to kill Claudius, yet does not.

Claudius is also a character who is neither true to himself nor to others: he is not being true to the rest of the kingdom. He does not want to give up his gains, so the people of Denmark do not know why their previous King has died and his brother taken over. While making an attempt to pray, he realizes that his sins cannot be forgiven. He wishes to be forgiven, but refuses to give up what he has gained while sinning. He laments:

"...O what form of prayer

...

...

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