Acted by Players trauelling that way, Wherein a woman that had murtherd hers Was euer haunted with her husbands ghost:
sighs and tears ‘seem’ to express his grief, Hamlet insists they are not significant: his inner feelings are his true meaning.
unsettles distinctions between performance and reality and how it thus exposes the mechanisms of theatre.
Hamlet ignores her main point (why does he grieve more intensely than other bereaved sons?) and snatches at the idea of ‘seeming’:
‘performance’ and ‘reality’,
his endless soliloquising makes him all the more theatrica
he seems deliberately to parade his grief for all to see.
What kind of truth can be told through theatre?
What sort of impact do plays have on those who watch them?
the performance leaves him reeling:
Once again Hamlet is tormented by the ‘monstrous’ relationship he perceives between acting and authenticity.
And this performed outpouring of emotion is somehow more authentic than Hamlet’s response to his father’s murder, or at least, so he fears.
how if the player had Hamlet’s experiences, his performance skills would enable him to expose courtly corruption.
Still uncertain about the veracity of the ghost’s murderous tale, Hamlet turns to theatre and all its artful contrivance to find the truth:
Such anecdotes defend theatre as morally valuable, countering the accusations of anti-theatricalists who claimed that plays not only encouraged vice by staging bad behaviour, but were also fundamentally fraudulent because they work by illusion.
Instead, the murder we do witness – right in the middle of the action – is showily theatrical.
The mirroring nature of the play
The play-within-a-play structure keeps us at a frustrating distance from the definite truth of things
four, grieving children (Hamlet, Fortinbras, Ophelia, Laertes)
two suicidal mourners (Hamlet, Ophelia)
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