The Ugly Truth
In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, there exists an awakening aspect of focus on paintings, mirrors, and images throughout the play, in which the characters look to for guidance, as well as a way to perceive their own state of humanity. However, in the live action play, many different characters become more aware of mirrors, and they begin to question their own motives as well as whether or not their logic is sound. Hamlet himself begins to use paintings and images to his advantage in his plight to persuade other characters that his father was murdered by his uncle. While Hamlet gets glimpses of himself in the mirrors and how his façade is drawing in the attention of other characters, he is far more interested in mirrors and paintings as a way of showing people the truth.
Some characters like Hamlet’s mother, are unaware of the why Hamlet has launched into this charade, and take naïve satisfaction in their judgments. When Hamlet addresses his mother in Act III, he has finally boiled over in the sense which he has finally had enough of her ignorance. “You go not till I set you up a glass [mirror] where you may see the inmost part of you.” (Act III, Scene IV, Lines 21-22) Although Hamlet simply tells her that he will set up a mirror, for her to observe herself on her own accord, to see if she thinks that she is genuinely in love, or is just acting like she is. As Hamlet looks for other ways to convince his mother that her love for his uncle is not genuine, he implores her to look at a painting of his father and uncle, in order to segue into comparisons of her two husbands. When he urges his mother to do what he asks, he then tries to provoke genuine feeling from her, as he is not convinced that she truly loves her husband’s brother. “Look here upon this picture…” Hamlet refers the an old painting and begins tells her that this image that she thinks is genuine; is “…the counterfeit presentment of two brothers…” and attempts to use the picture of the two kings to show that one brother is the epitome of sound logic, and righteousness, and the other is the epitome of deception and corruption.
For most of the play, the character Laertes became more and more antagonistic towards Hamlet, as he is convinced that Hamlet has driven Ophelia to insanity, then death. In response to this new feeling that Laertes has developed towards Hamlet, he begins to find parallels between the two of them. “For by the image of my cause, I see the portraiture of his.” (Act V, Scene II, Lines 81-82) In this brief moment of clear thinking for Hamlet, Shakespeare entwines an interesting thought in which Hamlet explains what he actually thinks of Laertes challenge. “I take him to be a soul of great article… his semblable is this mirror”. (Act V, Scene II, Lines 121-122). Hamlet himself begins to see Laertes not just as an angry man looking for justice, but as a true challenge, and with good reason. Hamlet perceives Laertes’ anger stemming from what has happened to his sister, and