Characterization in Hamlet

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Characterization in Hamlet Are the characters in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet round or flat, dynamic or static, consistent or inconsistent, presented mostly through showing or telling? This essay intends to answer these and other questions regarding the characterization in this drama. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar in “Hamlet: A Man Who Thinks Before He Acts” comment on the propensity of the Bard for well-rounded characters in Hamlet: Much of the delight of modern readers, of course, comes from the study of the characters of the principal figures in the play, for Shakespeare has presented them in three-dimensional vividness. We feel that they are living beings with problems that are perennially human. If a modern man is not called upon, as Hamlet was, to avenge a murdered father, he nevertheless must face crises in his own life that remind him of Hamlet’s dilemma, and he recognizes in the mental attitudes of the various persons of the play attitudes that are familiar in everyday life. Everybody has encountered an Ophelia, a sweet but uninspiring girl dominated by her father and brother. And everybody has had to put up with a Polonius, full of conceit over his worldly wisdom and ever ready to advise us with an unctuous cliché. (62) Hamlet has over 20 characters with speaking roles; and in occupations from king to grave-digger; and in 20 different scenes; and with a differentiation in speech, actions, etc. between every single individual character. Where else can such great variety in characterization be found? This aspect of the dramatist is emphasized by Robert B. Heilman in “The Role We Give Shakespeare”: But the Shakespeare completeness appears graspable and possessable ... ... middle of paper ... ... of Delaware Press, 1992. Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html West, Rebecca. “A Court and World Infected by the Disease of Corruption.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Court and the Castle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957. Wilkie, Brian and James Hurt. “Shakespeare.” Literature of the Western World. Ed. Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1992. Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “Hamlet: A Man Who Thinks Before He Acts.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar. N. p.: Pocket Books, 1958.
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