Would Hamlet have felt the delicious fascination of suicide if he hadn t had an audience, and lines to speak; gone insane if he hadn t attempted to deceive the world and himself? The great advantages of simulation and dissimulation are three. First to lay asleep opposition and to surprise. For where a man s intentions are published, it is an alarum to call up all that are against them. The second is to reserve a man s self a fair retreat: for if a man engage himself, by a manifest declaration, he must go through, or take a fall. The third is, the better to discover the mind of another. For to him that opens himself, men will hardly show themselves adverse; but will fair let him go on, and turn their freedom of speech to freedom of thought. ( Francis Bacon, English philosopher, Of Simulation and Dissimulation ) The second reason was the reason Hamlet could not make up his mind, a simple statement of his intent to avenge his father s death would have left only the choice that he vowed to take. The main problem that Hamlet had to overcome was the web of deceit that everyone in the play seemed to be weaving, when ever it appeared the web would fall apart a new deceit would come into the play.
A deception that elevates us is dearer than a host of low truths. ( Marina Tsvetaeva, Russian poet. Pushkin and Pugachev) Claudius lies about the death of Hamlet, his brother, the king of Denmark, saying he was killed by a snake bite when he was actually killed by poison poured in his ear by his brother Claudius. We are under the impression that this is literal but it could be simply advice that was intended to kill the king, e.g. Rest in the garden , when he knows there is a venomous serpent present.
I became a virtuoso of deceit. It wasn t pleasure I was after, it was knowledge. I consulted the strictest moralists to learn how to appear, philosophers to find out what to think and novelists to see what I could get away with. And, in the end, I distilled everything down to one wonderfully simple principle: win or die. ( Christopher Hampton, British playwright. Merteuil, in Dangerous Liaisons) Hamlet deceives people, making them think he is crazy. He realizes he cannot stand aside, so he must either win the game of deceit or die. He, however, went through the solving of his problem. Fortinbras, however, assumed the principle of win or die, he would either avenge his father or die. Hamlet tried to win without risking death, he was not ready to risk his life to avenge his father.
Whenever, therefore, people are deceived and form opinions wide of the truth, it is clear that the error has slid into their minds through the medium of certain resemblances to that truth. (Socrates, Greek philosopher. Quoted in: Plato, Phaedrus, sct. 262.) The reason for the success of Hamlet’s deception is its base in the truth of his existence, this is also the reason that Claudius deceives Laertes. He is truly becoming insane as he sees the truth of the cosmic jest, which is life. By the end, he is no longer pretending to be crazy, he has become as crazy as a fox. Nevertheless, he realizes the inevitability of his death in the avenging of his father s death. This is first shown in the quote We defy augury. There s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all. (Hamlet, Act 5. Scene 2.) after this Hamlet accepts what will happen, he avenges his father s `death and the deceit of Claudius upon himself and Laertes.
Man s mind is so formed that it is far more susceptible to falsehood than to truth. (Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch humanist. Praise of Folly) This is the basis of the entire play, it begins with Claudius s deception about the king s death and ends with the revealing of the truth. Were in not for this fact the deceptions that bound the story together would have fallen apart before they could culminate in the deadly conflict in act 5.
For tis the sport to have the engineer Hoisted with his own petard. (Hamlet, act 3, sc. 4) This quote from Hamlet s soliloquy about deceiving a deceiver, Claudius. Hamlet says it is best when you beat your opponent at their own game.
Sure, he, that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not that capability and god-like reason, To fust in us unused. (Hamlet, act 4, sc. 4) This quote expresses Hamlet s contempt for people who don t use their reason and allow it to become old.
This play is the expression of deceit in life, showing the problems and conflicts caused by deceit, whenever one problem was overcome, a new deceit would present a new problem. This was the basis of the play and Hamlet s character. If Hamlet had simply destroyed the web of deceits instead of attempting to deceive the deceivers, it would have solved his problems.