Hamlet's world is imbued of its own nuances and particularities. The characters, the plot as it unfolds, and the motivations and eccentricities of the characters are the features which give form and substance to this world which Hamlet inhabits. It is a world, Mack notes, which is not intended to admit other persons or other events (1952: 86). The imaginary world, the play's world, is thus a self-contained universe in which everything is as it should be. That said, this play remains one of the most elusive of all of Shakespeare's work; Mack paraphrases a Mr. E.M. W. Tillyard, stating that,
No one is likely to accept another man's reading of Hamlet, that anyone who tries to throw light on one part of the play usually throws the rest into deeper shadow, and that what I have to say leaves out many problems-to mention only one, the knotty problem of the text (Mack, 1952: 87).
The purpose of this essay is to analyze critically the three attributes of the play which, in fact, contribute most meaningfully to the difficulty in distinguishing mere appearances from reality; these three attributes, it can be argued, set forth the reasonable foundations for understanding the enduring popularity and the elusiveness of this particular play. To this end, this essay will present and discuss the three attributes posited by Mack and argue that these attributes are indeed aspects of the imaginary world which do explain the power and the depth of the play. The tension that exists, when attempting to determine what is reality and what is not, is intentional and deeply interwoven throughout the play.
1.1. How Mysteriousness Contributes to the Appearance/Reality Confusion
The first attribute refers to the mysteriousness of Hamlet's imaginary world. Mysteriousness, as Mack sees it, has long been an element associated with unique artistic endeavors. This attribute renders the text both interesting and confusing at the same time. It becomes difficult for the reader to predict what has truly happened or what may happen next. A linear analysis becomes difficult, an understanding or motivation and sanity more difficult to delineate, and the entire work becomes detached from our common understanding about how the world itself functions and how people behave and react to variable situations.
In Hamlet, this mysteriousness is manifest in many ways and pervades the text of the play rather than functioning as a sporadic or fleeting element. Mack cites the nature of Hamlet's madness, the ghost, his behavior toward Ophelia and Polonius, his clothing, and the manner in which his madness affects the other characters. There is, in effect, an extreme element of unpredictability which serves to fascinate rather than to discourage the reader of the play. This mysteriousness is engaging rather than unacceptable, and it functions to pull the reader into Hamlet's world. Because this world is so different, because its realities are by design vague and incapable of being described precisely, the reader loses some degree of control. The lack of logic, the riddles, and the unexpected reactions and twists cannot be questioned in this imaginary world; quite the contrary, they function to unite the characters and the events more persuasively than if logic and reason had prevailed. Mysteriousness, in short, is certainly one reasonable explanation for the emotion which the play generates. This mysterious is an