Examples of appearance versus reality in William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, include the ghost and when Hamlet acts as though he is mad. Other instances occur with Gertrude's innocence and when Claudius acts as though he is concerned for his brother's death.
Appearance versus reality is a common motif for Shakespeare, and this technique makes Hamlet popular because Shakespeare never resolves many of the questions posed in the play. The primary characters Shakespeare uses to question reality are the ghost, Gertrude and Hamlet.
Hamlet acts as though the ghost is real and lives accordingly. He listens to it, and its existence helps push him closer to the edge of madness. He intends to look mad in front of his friends and family so he might find out the truth about Claudius. Though he claims his behavior is just an act, the audience is left to wonder if he actually did go mad at some point in the play.
Gertrude's guilt or innocence is another issue that impacts Hamlet's mental health. She seems to care about Hamlet, which appears to contradict her character as a woman who would conspire to murder her husband. Claudius appears to be concerned about his brother's death, but the audience knows differently.