Characterization within the Drama Hamlet

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Characterization within the Drama Hamlet

The purpose of this essay is to enlighten the reader regarding the characters in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet – whether they are three-dimensional or two-dimensional, dynamic or static, etc.

The genius of the Bard is revealed in his characterization. Brian Wilkie and James Hurt in Literature of the Western World examine the universal appeal of Shakespeare resulting from his “sharply etched characters”:

Every age from Shakespeare’s time to the present has found something different in him to admire. All ages, however, have recognized his supreme skill in inventing sharply etched characters; it frequently happens that long after one has forgotten the exact story of a play one remembers its people with absolute vividness. (2155-56)

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: “We feel that they are living beings with problems that are perennially human” (62).

Hamlet has over 20 characters with speaking roles; 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”; he says that this variety is “graspable and possessable to many men at odds with each other, because of the innumerableness of the parts” (10).

The play begins with the changing of the sentinels on a guard platform of the castle of Elsinore in Denmark. Recently the spectral likeness of dead ...

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...e.” Essays on Shakespeare. Ed. Gerald Chapman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965.

Levin, Harry. General Introduction. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. No line nos.

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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