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Summary: Spying in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Spying is an interesting theme in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet because so many of the characters are engaged in it. Spying and being perfidious in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” All Throughout Shakespeare’s disaster, in Hamlet there are many characters that are spying and or spied upon, who would either set up traps but also fall into traps. These occupation creates a general affection towards lying and treachery that charges the play. In the starting line, “Who’s there? Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself” sets the tone of the play where the characters ought to continuously look over their shoulders and secure oneself.

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At the beginning of Act II is the first of numerous spying within the play. For example, the King and Gertrude (Hamlet’s mother) calls for Hamlet’s closest friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and told them to spy on Hamlet. “That you vouchsafe your rest here in out court some little time: so by your companies to draw him on pleasures, and to gather, so much as from occasion you may glean, whether aught, to us unknown, afflicts him thus, that open’d lies within out remedy”. Within this quote, the King is asking that they spend a quit deal of time with Hamlet and try to figure out what is going on in his mind and what is bothering him so much.

Another example of spying and lying is Polonius, who is the Lord Chamberlain of King Claudius’s court. He soon ordered Reynaldo (who is his servant) to go to Paris and spy on Laertes (his son). Polonius then tells Reynaldo to, “Breathe his faults so quaintly, that they may seem the taints of liberty, the flash and outbreak of a fiery mind, a savageness in unreclaimed blood, of general assault” (II:1, 31-35). Polonius is not able to take the straight route and just be forward and ask his servant to visit Laertes and just hand him some money and pose a question about his well being, as we can see in so many cases within this play. Instead Polonius tells his servant to go off and ask around in a way that it can mess up the reputation of Laertes and turn people against him who are living in Paris. He believed sending the servant Reynaldo to ask questions to random strangers is the only way to make the people speak of any possible bad behavior Laertes is doing.

For some money, these “friends” of Hamlet’s without a doubt betrayed him without even giving it a second thought. After making some type of progress in trying to get details out of Hamlet, the two friends both agree to guard Hamlet to England and the King has ordered them to get him killed. Soon after Hamlet found the King’s orders to get him killed and changed them. In the long run it leads to the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guilderstein (the two friends).

Polonius takes it upon himself to show Claudius a letter which was written by Hamlet for Ophelia. Polonius believes that Hamlet’s unquestionable behavior is because of his love for Ophelia and wants more spying to continue to prove a point. On the other hand Ophelia tries to concealed the truth because she is terrified of overstepping her father. It is known that Hamlet is already well informed that Polonius is watching after stating, “Let the doors be shut upon him, the he may play the fool nowhere but in own house. ” Ophelia could have easily told Hamlet the truth, but because of her enduring love for her father she chooses to deceive Hamlet. Ophelia’s betrayal towards Hamlet leads him to start questioning things. Hamlet states, “you should not have believed me: for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it: I loved you not.” Hamlet is saying that he does not have no love towards her because he believes that Ophelia is apart of this scheme and that she will reveal the truth that Polonius is in fact behind everything. Ophelia betrayed Hamlet by beginning to lie to him, so Hamlet returned the favor in needing to return to betrayal. Hamlet begins breaking apart because of Ophelia because he is irritated with her for being fake to him. If Ophelia had just been completely honest with Hamlet he would have not become so graceless towards her, but indeed she was not and that led to him denying his love for her.   

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