- Shakespeare, William
- 1564 - 1582: William Shakespeare's Stratford Beginnings
- 1582 - 1592: William Shakespeare's Marriage, Parenthood and Early Occupation
- 1592 - 1594: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 1
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 2
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 3
- 1611 - 1616: William Shakespeare - Back to Stratford
- Walpole, Horace
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- The Theatre
- Act I
- Act II
- Act III
- Act IV
- Act V
There is a strong theme of ‘false appearances' in the play (see Themes and significant ideas: False appearances.) At various times during Hamlet Shakespeare reinforces this idea by using the image of make-up — ‘painting', or face-painting. Although we know that make-up was commonly used in the sixteenth century — famously by Queen Elizabeth the First whose use of make-up containing white lead ruined her skin — Shakespeare frequently links it to sexual looseness, and hence moral corruption.
The court of Hamlet is full of deception, stemming particularly from the secret murder of Old Hamlet:
- In Act III scene i Claudius himself compares his hypocrisy, in pretending to be a virtuous monarch, with make-up used by a prostitute:
Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it
Than is my deed to my most painted word.'
- In the same scene Hamlet attacks women for the use of make-up, which seems to symbolise for him their deceptive natures:
face, and you make yourselves another.'
- In Act V scene i Hamlet scathingly remarks that make-up cannot overcome mortality:
an inch thick, to this favour she must come.'
The stark truth of death will do away with all disguises.
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