Within the play Hamlet there exist many puns and phrases, which have a double meaning. Little plays on words which tend to add a bit of entertainment to the dialogue of the play. These forked tongue phrases are used by Shakespeare to cast an insight to the characters in the play to give them more depth and substance. However, most importantly, these phrases cause the reader or audience to think. They are able to show a double meaning that not all people would pick up on, which is the purpose of the comments.
Little is known about Shakespeare’s life, other than he was a great playwright whose works serve to meld literary casts for ages to come. This was his occupation, he wrote and directed plays to be performed. This was his sole form of income that we know of, it was his way of putting the bread on the table. If people did not like what Shakespeare wrote, then he would not earn any money. If the people didn’t like what they saw, he became the starving artist. Shakespeare wrote these dialogues in such a manner as to entertain the Nobility, as well as the peasants.
The Shakespearean theater is a physical manifestation of how Shakespeare catered to more than one social class in his theatrical productions. These Shakespearean theaters have a unique construction, which had specific seats for the wealthy, and likewise, a designated separate standing section for the peasants. This definite separation of the classes is also evident in Shakespeare’s writing, in as much as the nobility of the productions speak in poetic iambic pentameter, whereas the peasants speak in ordinary prose. Perhaps Shakespeare incorporated these double meanings into the lines of his characters with the intention that only a select number of his audience were meant to hear it in either its double meaning, or its true meaning. However, even when the tragic hero, Hamlet’s, wordplay is intentional, it is not always clear why he uses it. To confuse or to clarify? Or to control his own uncensored thoughts? The energy and turmoil of his mind brings words thronging into speech, stretching, over-turning and contorting their implications. Sometimes Hamlet has to struggle to use the simplest words repeatedly, as he tries to force meaning to flow in a single channel.
To Ophelia, after he has encountered her in her loneliness, “reading on a book,” he repeats five times, “Get thee to a nunnery;” varying the phrase very little, simply reiterating what was already said by changing “get” to “go.
Hamlet’s Minor Characters
Hamlet’s Minor Characters
Hamlet It is reasonable to wonder what Shakespeare had in mind while writing Hamlet. After all, Shakespeare wasn’t a philosopher or historian, or even a literary critic. He was a playwright. He didn’t leave us critical essays examining his work. It is left to us to examine his work and decide for ourselves, if we care to, what Shakespeare was thinking. Did he know that he was writing a drama of deep psychological significance, a play which would eventually be viewed and read the world over, produced many times over hundreds of years, taught in schools, and thought of as one of the world’s greatest plays? I, for one, imagine him crossing the “t” in the last word of the play, putting down his pen, and saying “I hope it runs a year.”
Yet Hamlet is an extremely complex play. To appreciate the imagination which went into the creation of this tragedy, let’s first delve into what is putatively Shakespeare’s most complex tragedy, King Lear. Lear has three daughters: Cordelia, who is faithful and unappreciated by Lear, and Regan and Goneril who receive everything at his hands and betray him. These themes of misplaced love and filial betrayal are mirrored in the subplot of the play, the relationship between the Earl of Gloster and his two sons, Edmund, who is supported and approved by Gloster and betrays him, and Edgar, who unjustly becomes a fugitive from his father’s wrath. The mirror is whole. In it we view Cordelia’s reflection and see Edgar, while Regan’s and Goneril’s reflections, which are of one face, show us Edmund.
In the main plot of Hamlet, Hamlet’s father has been murdered. Hamlet swears revenge, but feign’s madness and delays. In the subplot, the chamberlain, Polonius, is murdered by Hamlet. One of Polonius’s children, Laertes, swears revenge, while the other, his daughter Ophelia, goes mad. Here, the mirror is cracked. Hamlet’s reflection is splintered. We see one part of him, his revenge motive, in Laertes’ action, and we see his pretended madness in Ophelia’s piteous condition. More than this, Hamlet’s image is dimmed compared to those of his counterparts. Hamlet speaks of revenge, but procrastinates; Laertes instantly raises and army and attacks the kingdom, but he must be satisfied over his father’s murder. Hamlet only acts mad; Ophelia’s madness is too real.
Besides production, full-house ticket sales, and royalties-the playwright’s typical goals, what was Shakespeare reaching for?