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Matt D'Ambrosio

Miss Stephano

English 10 CP

29 May 2009

Subterfuge in Hamlet

Hamlet, a play written by William Shakespeare, is set in Denmark. King Hamlet,

young Hamlet’s father, was murdered by his brother. King Hamlet tells about the murder

to his son in a ghostly form and Hamlet spends most of his time and efforts to try and

gain revenge on his father’s death. Different forms of subterfuge are used by many of the

different characters throughout the play to help them gain revenge. Through the actions

of King Hamlet, young Hamlet, and Ophelia, Shakespeare reveals how subterfuge can

destroy trust, as well as relationships.

For example, King Claudius uses subterfuge to help him gain information on

Hamlet’s behavior. Claudius paid Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to help him find the

cause of Hamlets madness. Because they were being paid, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

happily reported back to King Hamlet with the information that they have gathered. Also,

King Claudius used Ophelia to attempt to retrieve information on Hamlets behavior. King

Claudius asked Ophelia to talk to Hamlet and try to see why he is mad. Ophelia agreed to

the plan about his strange behavior and went to tell the king what she has gathered.

Lastly, King Claudius used his wife, Gertrude, to try and gather information of Hamlets

unoriginal presence. Claudius pleaded Gertrude to try and talk to young Hamlet and see

what was bothering him. Gertrude was more than happy to do this for him, as she was

curious as well. Information is obtained by the king with the help of Rosencrantz and

Guildenstern’s spying.
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Hamlet used subterfuge to help prove Claudius’s guilt. For instance, Hamlet asked

Horatio to watch Claudius’s reaction to the play. Since Horatio was such a good friend to

Hamlet, he agrees to help him. Horatio sat in the audience during the play to watch

Claudius’s reaction. Next, Hamlet used subterfuge to help him realize his friends. Hamlet

spied on the King talking with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet hoped to see if

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were talking about other people. In addition, Hamlet used

subterfuge to see if Claudius was sorry for his actions. Hamlet spied on Claudius when he

was alone to see if he repented for his actions. Hamlet found Claudius praying and

thought that Claudius had some repentance for killing his brother.

Queen Gertrude used subterfuge to help look out for Hamlet’s well being. For

example, Gertrude asked Claudius to spy on Hamlet. Gertrude wanted to help Hamlet in

his time of need. Gertrude revealed that Claudius spy on him and Ophelia through the

double sided mirror. Also, Gertrude kept an eye on Hamlet and his interactions with

others. While Hamlet was talking with others, she watched to see what he said. Because

Gertrude was concerned for Hamlets well being. She gathered information of his

interactions and doings. Additionally, Gertrude requested that Polonius tell her what he

has seen Hamlet doing. Gertrude wanted to help Hamlet recover so she asked Polonius to

tell her what he has seen. Hamlet almost walks in on Gertrude and Polonius and Polonius

ended up dead.

Characters throughout the play had their relationships and friendships ruined

because of trust. The characters in Hamlet used subterfuge for their own good. The

characters had hoped to help themselves by spying on other people. Subterfuge was used

by individuals in Hamlet to help their wants.