Hamlet and His Many Roles Essays

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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 at the exact center of the play and if broken up into sections one can see a different aspect of Hamlet’s personality for each one. The play-within-a-play scene suggests that Hamlet is putting 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 place at the same time. Bert States calls Hamlet “a succession of responses to rapidly
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lns 339-340). In this quote, upon dying, Hamlet acknowledges that they have all been taking part in a play.

In the study of Sociology, there is a theory that everyone has a number of roles
that they perform in their lives. Within the play, Hamlet’s most obvious roles are the
grieving son who must avenge his father’s death; Ophelia’s lover and later, arguably, her
damnation; the beloved prince of a proud heritage; the well-educated, sensitive
philosopher; and most obviously within the play: the madman. During the play scene, his
less obvious roles emerge. It can be argued whether these roles give depth to the layers of Hamlet’s personality, or show how serious his madness had become. These less obvious
roles, which will be discussed more fully, are Hamlet as manipulator, critic, good friend, comic, jubilant boy, mocking satirist, and revenger.

Hamlet’s role as a manipulator is the most interesting in this scene. It is through his manipulations that all the other roles emerge. The whole purpose of the play scene is for Hamlet to judge whether Claudius is guilty or if the ghost is lying. Therefore, Hamlet must manipulate the events of the scene. Ruth Nevo states: “In the play scene, Hamlet states his grand exposure of these inquiries”. Hamlet’s instructions to the players reflect his intentions: For in the very torrent, tempest, and as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget…

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