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Hamlet and His Many Roles

In the Shakespearean play, Hamlet, the title character portrays many roles, and all of these roles intersect in one scene in the play, Act III, scene ii. This scene takes place atthe exact center of the play and if broken up into sections one can see a different aspect ofHamlet’s personality for each one. The play-within-a-play scene suggests that Hamlet isputting on his own play and reminds us that in real life, a person can play many roles. Hamlet plays a different role with each character in the play, such as Polonius, Claudius,Ophelia, Horatio, and the players. In the play scene, these characters are in the same placeat the same time. Bert States calls Hamlet “a succession of responses to rapidly changingstimuli” (17). As he reacts with each character, he must move from role to role veryquickly. It can be asked which roles are parts of Hamlet’s true self and which are feigned? Shakespeare uses references to plays and acting throughout the play to keep inmind the theme of appearance Vs reality. Hamlet says, “Our indiscretion sometimesserves us well, when our deep plots do pall, and that should learn us/ There’s a divinitythat shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will” (V, ii.lns 8-11). He is referring to theplot, the plan to alter the Murder of Gonzago, that he had earlier used to catch theconscience of the king. Hamlet also refers to a play when speaking of his voyage withRosencrantz and Guildenstern: “being thus benetted round with villainies-- or I couldmake a prologue to my brains, they had begun the play” (V, ii. lns 29-31). Here, Hamletis claiming that his brain is working independently of his will and that a play is being, in asense, written for him. He is just acting out a role (Fisch 163). And once again, Hamletstates: “You that look pale and tremble at this chance, that are but mutes or audiences tothis act” (V, ii. lns 339-340). In this...

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