Who's There: a Question of Identity in Hamlet Essay

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Pages: 7

The Significance of “Who’s There?”
A Question of Identity

Throughout Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the theme of deception and appearance versus reality becomes increasingly apparent. The complex characters featured in the play resolve to secretive which leads to a question of everyone’s identity. Yet, one does not even need to read the play to discover it’s essential themes. The first line of the play, “Who’s there?” (Hamlet 1. 1. 1) is not merely a question spoken by a guard who cannot see, rather it has a much deeper meaning as a foreshadowing of the play, where the characters are time and again faced with the question – who is this person really, who is really there. The simple introductory statement of ‘Who’s there?’ is not just a
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Away!” (III. II. 244). This reaction cements Hamlet’s belief in the truth of the ghost King Hamlet’s words and the guiltiness of Claudius, Who is he really? – A murderer.
In same scene where King Claudius’s true identity is first called into question, the same is done for Hamlet’s mother. “Won to his shameful lust, the will of my most seemingly virtuous queen,” (I. V. 45-46). Unlike Claudius, her true personality is not revealed within the play, but it is definitely called into to question. The reader can ponder Gertrude’s possible innocence or adultery. Hamlet does not necessarily call Gertrude out on the offence of infidelity, he questions her quick marriage to Claudius and thus wonders of a possible previous relationship between the two. His argument lies in the differences between the two brothers, “Look here upon this picture…See what a grace was seated on this brow/Hyperion’s curls the front of Jove himself/An eye like Mars, the threaten and command…This was your husband…Here is your husband, like a mildewed ear, blasting his wholesome brother,” (III. IV. 53-65). In his mind no one could take the place of King Hamlet and her heart should not have been so accepting of Claudius so quickly. Though it can be argued that there really isn’t much distinction between the two and Hamlet’s outburst is to make Gertrude enforce his idea that the