Hamlet was written among times of exceedingly doubted faith. Religion was put to question after many beliefs had been disproved by technology and science. There was a huge move, away from Catholicism, towards more modern views. The Catholic Church was found to be very corrupt and this decreased its influence and power upon the world. Henry the VIII made a movement away from the Church and pushed for a reformation to Protestantism. All these changes and disruptions in society led to many people questioning what was real and what wasn't. Shakespeare uses the topical theme of appearance vs. reality to evoke many issues within society and bring them to light. He presents us with two main characters to represent each belief; Claudius, as a Protestant, a politician who defies divine right by taking power not receiving it; and Hamlet as a Catholic, fighting for the restoration of order. .
Act 1 clearly sets the basis for a strong debate of appearance vs. reality arousing a fair number of questions among the audience, who are eager for the resolutions, also evoking many emotions of fear, anxiety, doubt and trust., so that upon reaching Act 2 the audience's first thought of everyone will be "are they really who they say they are?" .
Act 2 opens with Polonius worrying about Laertes. He is requesting that Reynaldo visit Laertes and gain his confidence in order to find out what he is up to. This shows blatant duplicity and corruption. Polonius is consumed with appearance, always trying to appear as a caring person, a man who loves his son, Laertes. By sending a spy to entrap his son he shows a lack of trust for everyone, even his family, which contradicts his appearance as confident father who allowed Laertes to travel alone. He insists Laertes is not to be "drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling, drabbing" and many other things, all of which Polonius himself is preoccupied with. In reality Polonius is a politician, trying to find out the truth through lies.