Summary: The Gap Between False and Verifiable Realities Through The Hamlet Play

The Shakespearian tragedy of Hamlet tells the story of a noble king's son, Hamlet, who thirsts for the truth about his father's death. Ophelia, Hamlet's lover, is the only character portrayed throughout the play as one who is sincere or acts and speaks genuine intentions. Throughout the enigmatic play, Ophelia reveals a prevailing dichotomy with Hamlet as she discloses an organic sincerity towards others while Hamlet selfishly forges his madness, bridging the gap between the themes of false and verifiable realities.

Throughout most of the play, Ophelia's thoughts and motivations are revealed in glimpses of vivid, imaginative, and emotional language as she describes Hamlet's “mad” episode in her chamber. She reports that he appeared “with a look so piteous in purport / As if he had been loosed out of hell / To speak of horrors” . She expresses profound grief when she witnesses Hamlet’s apparent madness as she cries, “O, woe is me / T' have seen what I have seen”— and she makes her mournful remark after Hamlet has made his exit and cannot hear her, indicating that she expresses a genuine feeling .

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Thus, in contrast to Hamlet's accusation later in the act that she lies, Ophelia's demeanor reveals untold dignity as she speaks with confidence.

Although, Ophelia's internal emotions often conflict with her external expressions; for example, her words, gestures, and actions. Hamlet asks Ophelia, “Are you honest?”. Ophelia is bewildered by the question. While during the rest of the exchange Hamlet interrogates Ophelia based on the latter form of honesty, the question's location in the context of their conversation also reveals Hamlet's uncertainty about Ophelia's truthfulness.

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Hamlet is most likely curious about the end to their affair, and while she does not appear to be as Hamlet suspects, artfully duplicitous, she also has instances in which she is not sincere, which emphasizes the theme of false and verifiable realities.

Ophelia's character lingers between sincerity and insincere because her choices and expressions convey too little about her inward desires for other characters to gauge the honesty of the way she truly is. However, Ophelia shows more sincerity than any of the other characters in Hamlet. When Polonius orders her to end her courtship with Hamlet, she responds only by expressing the fervor and apparent genuineness of Hamlet's love gestures, expressing her love for him. In other instances, she ceases to show sincerity. In her account of Hamlet's visit to her chamber, she simply stodd passive and “affrighted”, and tells Polonius that she does not discuss her decision to cease romantic communication with Hamlet but only “did repel his letters and denied his access” to her. She then agrees with Polonius' plan to spy on the prince without any statement of opinion on the plot, and her involvement is legible both as loyalty to Polonius and as disloyalty to Hamlet; it suggests nothing of her internal character other than her passivity.

Being a dominant theme in Hamlet, the gap between false and verifiable realities is overcome through the character of Ophelia. Ultimately, Shakespeare is conveying a greater purpose to his play beyond mere entertainment. It is never evident how much of Ophelia’s words and actions are genuine, and because Shakespeare never unveils the complete truth about her, not even with dramatic irony, she reveals that one may seem fully sincere, yet keep certain things to themselves. Shakespeare’s play makes the audience question who they can and can not trust.

Updated: Feb 25, 2024
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Summary: The Gap Between False and Verifiable Realities Through The Hamlet Play. (2024, Feb 25). Retrieved from

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