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Betrayal always occurs, it may even come from the truest of friends. It is hard to overcome, but one must keep their head up and continue their path. Carlos Wallace states, “The word friend is a label anyone can try on. You decide who is best suited to wear it. The most dangerous among us come dressed as angels and we learn too late they are the devil in disguise.” During drastic events, many tend to disguise their true selves, so that they may benefit from the fall of others. In William Shakespeare’s, Hamlet, several relationships have experienced tension which leads to the betrayal of one another, even the strongest of friendships. There are many reasons that lead to characters’ need to betray others, such as disguise to hide the truth, protection of others, and betrayal of one another for personal gain, which are all leading causes of the act of betrayal in Hamlet.

Different characters put on a disguise to hide the real truth about themselves. Claudius betrays his blood brother, old Hamlet and hides his knowledge about his death, and puts on a mask of sadness. This is evident when Claudius states,

“Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death

the memory be green, and that it is being fitted

to bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom

to be contracted in one brow of woe…” (Hamlet 1.2.1-4)

Therefore, one can see Claudius’ fake persona that he has created to prevent others from seeing his true self by portraying himself as honorable, trustworthy, and upset due to the loss of his brother. Furthermore, he puts on this disguise and act of innocence to mainly hide his dark side from Hamlet and Gertrude. On the other hand, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz lie to Hamlet about the truth, about why they have come to Elsinore. Guildenstern states, “The Queen, your mother, in the greatest affliction of spirit, hath sent me to you.” (3.2.305-306) It is evident that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were very hesitant to tell Hamlet the reason for their visit. Hamlet is very suspicious about it, so they decide to tell him that they were sent for him. It is clear that they do not care for hamlet and are not true friends of his. Likewise, Hamlet later becomes aware of this and betrays them, the way that they have done it to him. This is seen when Hamlet puts on an antic disposition so that he can investigate the nature of his father’s death, without Claudius knowing the truth.

“But come,

Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,

How strange or odd soever I bear myself,

As I perchance hereafter shall think to meet

To put an antic disposition on-…” (1.5.185-190)

Therefore, Hamlet speaks of putting on an act to trick Claudius into finding out the truth, in other words, puts on a “mask” to conceal the truth of his knowledge. Shakespeare’s use antic of disposition, allows the character to deal with the problem without having to face it directly. As well as, allowing the character to fool others so that they may gain control. Furthermore, by characters putting up a disguise, it helps to hide the truth. Their disguise or “mask”, is what they use to hide their knowledge about different situations.

Multiple characters throughout Hamlet betray/ disguise themselves for personal gain. This is evident in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, ease to betray Hamlet, so that they may please Claudius and gain some extra money. This is seen when Claudius says to them;

“Some little time. So by your companies

To draw him on to pleasures and to gather,

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So much as for occasion you may glean,

Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus

That opened, lies within our remedy. “(2.2.14-19)

Once friends of Hamlet, they betrayed him in cold blood, without a second thought. Their loyalty towards a person is insufficient and non-existent. Therefore, this shows how their friendship means nothing, compared to what they may gain from the betrayal of one of their close friends. Furthermore, it is evident that the line between friendship and betrayal is broken with ease, and no attention to what may occur from this strong act of betrayal. However, after knowing of their betrayal, it resulted in hamlets betrayal of both of them. Hamlet informs Horatio of what he has done and says;

“An earnest conjuration from the king,

As England was his faithful tributary,

As the love between them like the palm might flourish,

As peace should stiff her wheaten garland wear

And stand a comma ’tween their amities,

And many suchlike ‘as’es of great charge,

That, on the view and knowledge of these contents,

Without debatement further, more or less,

He should the bearers put to sudden death,

Not shriving time allowed.” (5.2.41-50)

Hamlet’s anger and hatred for what his friends have done led him to betray them as well. This shows that even those of the strongest of friendships are bound to break at some point. Hamlet felt the deep betrayal of his friends and knew that he can no longer put his trust in them and allowed them to die. This act of betrayal is also evident in when Claudius betrays his own brother, so that he may become king and control others. This can be seen when the ghost explains to Hamlet how Claudius murdered him, the ghost states, “‘tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, a serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark is by a forged process of my death rankly abused.” (1.5.40-44) Claudius’ jealousy of his brother, led him to act on it and betray him so that he may gain power and the only way he felt that he could gain the power is to take over. Therefore, Claudius does not show a great amount of guilt about his brother’s murder, since it allows him to become king and have the power that he wanted all along.

Due to the great amounts of personal gain, it made betrayal fairly easy for different characters to act on. Therefore, the personal gain, that characters receive, allows them to have the power that they want.

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