The Role of Minor Characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet

The Role of Minor Characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet

Length: 655 words (1.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
The Role of Minor Characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet

Minor characters play a very crucial role in Shakespear's Hamlet. They serve as narrators for events that occurred outside the immediate play: the Dane's ghost. Distinct contrasts are created through the usage of the play's minor characters. The reader gains new perspective on Hamlet's character when he is compared with Laertes. The presence of these minor characters can also have a direct effect on the action of the play. The actors in the play within the play are used to expose the guilt of Claudius; Hamlet then has proof of the King's crimes. The expertise use of these characters - either to exemplify good and purity, or to spread the vile corruption which permeates Elsinore - is one of the main reasons for Hamlet's success as one of the greatest plays ever written.

Some events in Hamlet must be narrated to the reader, and to the major characters, through minor characters which have a direct link to the events. Shakespear builds the entire play around information which was narrated to Hamlet by his father's ghost. The ghost tells Hamlet of events which the reader would otherwise never know about: the murder of the former Dane by Claudius. When Horatio reads the letter that he has received from Hamlet the reader is informed of how Hamlet has evaded Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Also, the events occurring in Norway reach the court by means of an emissary, Voltimand, sent to check on Fortinbras. These events have a strong and direct relevancy to the plot and movement of the play.

Shakespear uses contrast to highlight the qualities of the characters in Hamlet; this contrast shows up in the minor characters. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, false friends of Hamlet who succumb to Claudius' corruptness, serve as a distinct contrast to the loyal friendship that Horatio shares with Hamlet. Voltimand is used to contrast Polonius' often comic verbosity. While Polonius dresses up all his speeches with the language of the court, Voltimand is able to give his entire report on Fortinbras in a matter of seconds. The most powerful foil in the play is between Laertes and Hamlet. Upon hearing of the death of his father, Laertes becomes enraged, and seeks immediate vengeance; he does not delay, and acts instantaneously. When the ghost tells Hamlet of Claudius' crimes, Hamlet is unable to act. He procrastinates, missing many opportunities to avenge his father, and acts when it is already too late.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Role of Minor Characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet." 17 Jun 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on The Minor Characters Of William Shakespeare 's Hamlet

- When analyzing a text, it is essential that readers do not put two-dimensional character aside as they have the same amount value of a three-dimensional character. Minor characters typically serve as a plot device to establish a setting or theme. However, it is not expected of them to be interesting as the major characters are far more complex and have intentions that cause them to be the central focus of the play. To further explain, major characters are three- dimensional so a reader and, therefore, relatable, as opposed to a two- dimensional role....   [tags: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, Character]

Research Papers
1364 words (3.9 pages)

Characters Of ' Hamlet ' And ' Rosencrantz ' Are Dead ' Essay

- As a child you watch movies and the books that go along with it, not noticing the similarities or the differences between the book and the movie. In class we studied the play of Hamlet and the movie Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. The movie put these minor characters in a major role where they are the main character. We discussed the the differences and the similarities of both. The movie added some different views in scenes in Hamlet. Such as what Rosencrantz and Guildenstern did when they were getting orders from Hamlet and Claudius....   [tags: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, Prince Hamlet]

Research Papers
1763 words (5 pages)

Analysis Of Shakespeare 's ' Hamlet ' Essay

- The explicit behaviors and reactions of characters within a dramatic tragedy serve not only to augment the play’s action and plot, but also to underscore the distinct qualities of each persona. William Shakespeare, in particular, establishes the discrepancies in personality among the characters of Hamlet through clear conditions that markedly portray the motives and ambitions of even minor characters. By combining complex attitudes and manners, Shakespeare develops immensely multifaceted individuals who present variety as well as conflict for the piece as a whole....   [tags: Gertrude, Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet]

Research Papers
1221 words (3.5 pages)

Hamlet : Driven By Madness Essay

- Hamlet: Driven by Madness. Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most esteemed pieces of literature, which has been studied in depth by many scholars. The plot of Hamlet follows a strain of madness that begins when Claudius murders King Hamlet and ends with the tragic deaths of almost every main character of the play. Hamlet is a unique revenge tragedy in its behavior of madness because Hamlet’s madness is equivocal. Whereas in other various revenge tragedies the protagonists are unequivocally insane. For some unknown reason, Hamlet plays with the idea of insanity putting on an “antic disposition” as he says....   [tags: Characters in Hamlet, Hamlet, Gertrude]

Research Papers
817 words (2.3 pages)

Hamlet, By William Shakespeare Essay

- Throughout the course of the play, Hamlet, the reader of the text is introduced to several minor characters, all of whom serve one or more functions to further develop the text. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are two of the minor characters presented within the play, and the pair serve, unitedly, to illustrate several key themes and ideas within the play, as well as their influence on humor presented within the text. Thus, in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a pair of minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are utilized through their actions and their dialogue, as a method of establishing several key themes within the text, such as obedience, deception, and identity, or lack thereof, and...   [tags: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, Prince Hamlet]

Research Papers
1388 words (4 pages)

Essay on The Tragedy Of Hamlet By William Shakespeare

- The tragedy of Hamlet was a very interesting play with many very interesting characters that did a great many heroic and disappointing things despite the complexity and difficulty to understand the true personality William Shakespeare intended for each. Ophelia, one of the minor characters, represents one of the two women captured between men set out for revenge. Despite the minor role this character played, her impact on the play was quite significant. However, one of the most important questions to analyze, and the question this paper will explore below is why she went mad....   [tags: Love, Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, Emotion]

Research Papers
1727 words (4.9 pages)

Revenge By William Shakespeare 's Hamlet Essay examples

- Although many aspects of revenge stimulate the concept of integrity, revenge signifies a more destructive and vindictive focus as opposed to an amicable and restorative one. Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye would make the world blind”. Revenge is a universal feeling most people sense, when someone has done them wrong. But in the end revenge usually does not benefit any party. Seeking revenge really won 't make anything better; it will only make things worse. The finest way to get revenge is to move on and remember what goes around comes around....   [tags: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, Prince Hamlet]

Research Papers
1360 words (3.9 pages)

The Tragic Tragedy Of William Shakespeare 's ' Hamlet ' Essay

- Throughout time in history, women have continued to play minor roles in society, although with heavy contributions, as depicted in William Shakespeare’s tragic revenge, Hamlet. This unfortunate truth is reflected through the actions of Queen Gertrude, and Ophelia, as they are the true source of all conflict, seen as weak and characterless personnel, and incredibly dependant on the men in their lives. Thus labeled as the true driving factors of other characters actions, and as a result, receiving abusive treatment....   [tags: Marriage, Characters in Hamlet, Hamlet, Gertrude]

Research Papers
2336 words (6.7 pages)

Analysis Of Shakespeare 's ' Hamlet ' And The Movie ' The Renaissance Man '

- During the play “Hamlet” and the movie “The Renaissance Man” many characters in both the movie and play make life choices that evidently lead to trickledown effect in their lives. Prince Hamlet made several life decisions that affected his life as he sought to avenge his father’s murder. Similarly, Roosevelt Nathaniel Hobbs made choices in his past that affected his life drastically in his military career. Many other characters in there fictional worlds made choices that affected their lives as well, such as King Claudius and Bill Rago....   [tags: Characters in Hamlet, Hamlet, King Claudius]

Research Papers
1075 words (3.1 pages)

The Foils in Hamlet Essay examples

- Foils in Hamlet A foil is a minor character that helps the audience better understand a major character. A foil may exist as a comparison character, with similarities between the two, as well as differences that bring to light an important contrast between the foil and the main character. A foil may also just be someone for the main character to talk to, so we can know and understand their thoughts and feelings. Foils help us understand the obvious as well as the arcane. In the classic tragedy Hamlet, we see William Shakespeare employ foils to illustrate both examples....   [tags: Free Hamlet Essays]

Research Papers
869 words (2.5 pages)

Related Searches

This tardiness on Hamlet's part is also contrasted by the Fortinbras' quickness to fight for land which has been taken from him.

The roles of these minor characters aren't always removed from the main story; they can also have a direct connection to the movement of the plot. The actors in Hamlet's staged play serve as a very effective tool in unearthing the King's guilt. Without these actors Hamlet wouldn't have the proof that he needed to verify the identity of the ghost and the sins of Claudius. Since Polonius is slain while eavesdropping on Hamlet and the Queen, a confrontation between Laertes and Hamlet is inevitable; it was the actions of Polonius, with only a reaction from Hamlet, that set this confrontation in motion. Ophelia's suicide acts as a catalyst for this confrontation between Hamlet and Laertes. This clash is the climax of the play, and with Ophelia's death looming over it, it becomes a very emotional and powerful scene.

The minor characters in Hamlet not only provide contrast and extras to Shakespeare's work, but they keep the story going, in what would otherwise be a drawn-out play. Without the contributions of the minor characters, the play would lose its flavor. With the added element of the minor characters the play's high points are made more intense: the corruption seems blacker, the suspense grips tighter, and the love burns longer. The silken threads of the minor characters weave perfectly into the greater web of Hamlet.
Return to