Analyzing Hamlet the Character and Hamlet the Play – British Library



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“Outward displays of emotion are untrustworthy, Hamlet reasons, because a person could ‘play’ or mimic them. Indeed, even his own sincere demonstrations of sadness are compromised because it would be easy to feign them. So while Hamlet’s mourning clothes, sighs and tears ‘seem’ to express his grief, Hamlet insists they are not significant: his inner feelings are his true meaning. This relationship between ‘show’ and ‘authenticity’, ‘performance’ and ‘reality’, preoccupies Hamlet throughout the play. When he discovers that his uncle has murdered his father, Hamlet interprets the news as a lesson in deceitful appearances: ‘meet it is I set it down / That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain!’ (1.5.107–08). However, the tragedy complicates any easy moral distinctions between acting and authenticity. Hamlet himself, despite his petulant outburst against ‘seeming’, cannot escape the human impulse to perform. Not only does he successfully adopt an ‘antic disposition’ (1.5.172) to deflect attention from his revenge plot, but his endless soliloquising makes him all the more theatrical, even as he meditates on ‘that within which passes show’. At the very moment Hamlet insists that his mourning is authentic and internal, he seems deliberately to parade his grief for all to see. In this tragedy, Shakespeare explores the ways in which performance exists in and shapes reality.”

MLA Citation:

Woods, Gillian. “Hamlet: the play within the play.” British Library Board, n.d.  (PUT DATE OF ACCESS HERE). <>.

In-Text: (Woods)

***REMEMBER all lines of the citation after the first get indented once***

APA Citation:

Woods, G. (n.d.). Hamlet: the play within the play. British Library Board. Retrieved from

In-Text: (Woods)

***REMEMBER all lines of the citation after the first get indented once***

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