The Theme of Spying in Hamlet
Within Hamlet, there is an intricately interconnected subterfuge of deceit, much of which stems from the act of spying. Throughout the play the audience is left confused by the protagonist’s erratic behaviour and the conspiring of numerous other characters, mostly from Claudius’ command, against the title character. Despite the fact that it is Hamlet himself who introduces the theme of spying, intending for his “antic disposition” to serve as a method of shielding his true nature from the King, he also appears to suffer severe repercussions from the deception and uncertainty that is rife within the play. This results in Hamlet’s true mental state becoming a matter of intense debate for the audience.
In one of the early ironies of the play, Hamlet’s antic disposition, though intended to alleviate suspicion of his actions, only serves to confuse the King and inspire his decision to use Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as spies against his nephew. The King’s observation that Hamlet’s behaviour resembles “more than his father’s death” not only shows Claudius as an astute character, but also hints at a concealed fear that he may have towards the protagonist. At this early stage of the play, however, the audience has no means of deciphering the King’s true nature, as he is yet to reveal his guilt and the Ghost is an uncertain figure, shrouded in an ethereal mystery. The audience remains aware of Horatio’s warning to Hamlet that the Ghost may have an ulterior intent. Horatio even states to Hamlet that the ghost may intend to “draw you into madness”, and this line in particular reverberates in the audiences’ minds as they see Hamlet descend into an undecipherable lunacy. Furthermore, the stygian imagery which the Ghost utilises, such as the repetition of “foul, strange and unnatural”, does not represent the language that the audience would expect of the deceased King Hamlet – instead hinting that the ghost is a deceitful...