Hamlet Role Play Analysis

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Over the course of Hamlet, many of the main characters engage in role play as a mechanism to achieve their own interests. Prince Hamlet is one of these characters, and his act proves to be one of the most important aspects of the play. Throughout the play, role-play (especially Hamlet’s) significantly affects the plot, and ultimately strains the relationships between several characters.
Hamlet is among one of the most important characters to engage in role play. In act one, scene 5, shortly after being told that Claudius killed his father, Hamlet tells Horatio and Marcellus that he plans to feign madness, and he says, “As I, perchance, hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on- that you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
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One such relationship is that between Hamlet and Ophelia. When Hamlet sees Ophelia at the castle, she has come to return the love letters that he once gave her, but Hamlet denies he ever loved her, saying “You should not have believed me [that I loved you]; for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you not (3.1.118-120).” However, Hamlet did love Ophelia, and he did write her those letters, but he pretends not to love her as part of his act. Unaware of the role Hamlet is playing, Ophelia feels rejected and hurt. Eventually, Ophelia’s heartache, along with the death of her father, causes her to commit suicide. Next, Claudius and Gertrude’s role play affect their relationship with Hamlet. At the beginning of the play, Claudius takes on the role of a kind, just king; he seems to genuinely care for Hamlet. He often gives him fatherly advice, and shows affection for Hamlet in ways that an uncle would. However, Hamlet soon discovers that Claudius has been lying to him, and Claudius’ real motive is to kill Hamlet in order to exterminate all possible threats to his reign. Claudius’ role play affects the entire country of Denmark, and he convinces the people that he is the rightful king, when he is not, and has murdered his brother for the throne. Gertrude, too, takes on a role; throughout the play, she seems oblivious to her wrongdoings. She claims that she loves Claudius, and did not just marry him for political reasons. However, in in act 5, scene 4, Gertrude finally admits that she has wronged her son and her first husband, and in her conversation with Hamlet, she says, “O Hamlet, speak no more. Thou turn’st my very eyes into my soul. And there I see such black and grained spots as will leave there their tinct (3.4.87-90).” This indicates that Gertrude does feel guilt for her actions, and all along has been playing a role.

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