In Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare, Shakespeare examines the differ-ence between appearance and reality. The problem of what is real and what is not is established from the beginning of the play to the end.
The play starts outside the castle, where three guards witness the appearance of a Ghost who looks exactly like the dead old Hamlet. They ask Hamlet, the prince of Denmark and his friend Horatio to come see the Ghost. Hamlet speaks to the ghost, who claims to be the spirit of his dead father. The Ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered him, by poring poison in his ear, but in reality a snake has bitten him while asleep. The ghost appears as a spirit from hell, but the truth is that the ghost is really the seer of reality who tries to reveal facts to Hamlet. It is odd that Hamlet is the only person, besides the guards, who could see the ghost.
Since Hamlet doubts the truth of the Ghost's story, he decides to put on an act, to pretend like he's crazy, and in the process he also drives Ophelia crazy causing her to commit suicide. He tells her that he doesn't love her and that she should join a nunnery. And later on in the play the queen tells Laertes and the King the breaking news, Ophelia is dead. .
Another example of appearance vs. reality is the play-within-a-play. The ac-tors appear onstage and act out the events that have happened in reality. Hamlet care-fully organizes this appearance so that he can measure the degree of reality by Claudius' reaction.
At times its almost as if Hamlet's appearance of madness has become reality. When King begins to suspect that Hamlet knows about the murder, Hamlet is cautious and nervous about what he should do. When at last he decides to punish Claudius, but he accidentally kills Polonius, and instead of being upset, he just does not care. Claudius fears for his safety, so he decided to send Hamlet to England to die.
The duel, in Act V, Scene II appears to be an innocent competition between two opponents; but in reality, it is a deadly match that causes the deaths of the four main characters: the King, the Queen, Laertes and Hamlet himself.