Within Hamlet, Shakespeare’s use of humor serves multiple purposes beyond simple comic relief. Firstly, it helps to characterize various important people, especially Hamlet, as well as less important characters such as Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Osric. Secondly, it serves to reinforce the themes of appearance vs. reality as well as disease and decay. Finally, it helps to paint a picture of Shakespeare both as a playwright and as a person.
By being very precise in his portrayal of which characters are witty and which are not, Shakespeare helps the audience differentiate between the various strong personalities present in the play. Naturally, major characters such as Hamlet and Polonius are affected by this development. In Act IV, Hamlet’s…show more content… reality and disease and decay in a surprisingly lighthearted manner. It is Hamlet’s “antic disposition” which, in addition to her father’s death, drives Ophelia to madness. The interactions between the two during “The Mousetrap” show how close they actually can be and how much he means to her. Later, after she has gone mad, Ophelia talks only in riddles which no one can understand which is strange and almost comedic. The Scene with the gravediggers helps to show the absurdity of life that we often ignore, whether out of ignorance or fear of what is to come. Hamlet and Horatio talk about how the skulls which the gravedigger throws around with reckless abandon could have once been those of a politician, courtier, or lawyer, all positions of great rank (V.i.64-96). Now, what those people did in life means nothing because, when it comes down to it, everyone is the same on the inside. As Lori Culwell notes, "By using recognizable references from contemporary times, the clown can, through the use of the oral tradition, make the audience understand the theme being played out by the court-dominated characters in the play." (“The Role of the Clown”) This is an important detail as many of the people watching Shakespeare’s plays were not very well educated. In that regard, the relative simplicity with which the gravediggers present the themes opens up the possibility of a deeper understanding of the play for a…show more content… He does this by painting several characters in greater detail than would be accomplished with drama alone. Also affected by this utilization of humor is the development of central themes and their presentation to the audience. Finally, his humor lets us gain a glimpse into the mind of the great playwright that would not be possible