Betrayal is an act of disloyalty, treachery, violating trust, or breaching confidence. Betrayal is a reoccurring action in the tragic Shakespeare play, Hamlet. Many of the characters deceive one another as well as deny their own feelings, betraying themselves. The secrecy and dishonesty of Shakespeare’s characters show that the actions of humans do not always equate to their appearances in society. The interpersonal and person acts of deception in Hamlet contribute to Shakespeare’s theme of the duel nature of humanity.
The most obvious act of betrayal in Hamlet is the murder of King Hamlet by his brother, Claudius. Shortly after the murder, Claudius marries Gertrude, the queen. This could be seen as an added betrayal on Gertrude’s part as well as Claudius’s. They quickly move on from the death of their husband/brother and do not mourn an adequate amount of time. To the public, the newly married couple appears happy and in control. In reality, they are both dealing with the guilt of their immoral actions as well as how their actions have affected Hamlet, who appears to have gone mad following the death of his father.
Hamlet’s plot to act as though he is mad causes him to deceive and harm his family members and peers, primarily Ophelia. By denying his love for Ophelia, he leaves her confused and broken hearted. She didn’t understand why the man she loved was now acting as though he was disgusted by her and as if he never cared for her at all. Hamlet’s hasty actions continue when he abruptly murders Polonius, Ophelia’s father. This drives Ophelia into madness. Hamlet truly loves Ophelia, but she will never know because of his deceptive processes.
When Hamlet denies his feelings for Ophelia he also betrays himself. He denies himself happiness and causes himself more pain than necessary. He focuses more on how he should appear to the public than on his own feelings. Hamlet also betrays his own feelings when he hesitates to avenge his father’s death. He does not accomplish what he wanted because he overthinks and overanalyzes. If he is wrong about his belief that Claudius killed his
father, he would look terrible in the public eye. But in the process to become certain, he misses an opportunity to avenge his father.
In conclusion, the characters in Hamlet are deceptive and dishonest. They portray the duel nature of humanity, to appear one way to the public and an entirely different way in private affairs. The characters’ acts of betrayal represent how they act out of the view of society.