Plays within Plays

Shakespeare has an interesting idea of using plays within his plays in order to show different storyline,foreshadowing and other techniques. In Hamlet, it is no different then in the other plays. In Hamlet, the prince has the actors put on the play of the murder of Gonzalo which is the exact same way that Hamlet’s father was killed. We know this based on the line 238, “[He] pours poison in [the Player’s King] ears,” (1742) which is how Hamlet’s father was killed. By doing this, Shakespeare is showing his readers the way that the king was killed. The readers are now able to properly see what happened, and how King Hamlet was betrayed. The play also helps show the evil deed to Claudius showing that Hamlet knows what happened to his father. By showing the play, Hamlet is making Claudius starting to become paranoid that is safety is in jeopardy.

Not only that but the interaction that Player King and Player Queen have helps show the Queen her own wrong doings. Hamlet is showing how the Queen is becoming now. By saying the lines, “A second time I kill my husband dead – When second husband kisses me in bed,” (1740) the actors are showing the Queen her wrong doings and how she didn’t mourn for King Hamlet, and instead quickly married Claudius without a second thought. You could easily argue that this is Hamlet showing both his mother and uncle how he hate’s their marriage and how he believes that they completely ruined everything for him.

The play is a huge backstabbing and you can also argue that it could be the start of his madness and desperation to kill Claudius. The amount of planning in the play itself shows how Hamlet is thinking about revenging his father’s death 24/7 and only thinking about that. He might be trying to woo Ophelia and wanting to be something to her but there is other evidence that he doesn’t care about having a relationship with her at the present moment which can be seen where he says, “So you mis-take your husbands,” (1742) which is him pretty much calling Ophelia a cheater. Now, what sane man would ever call their lover that?


2 thoughts on “Plays within Plays

  1. Samantha Meyer

    I agree with your commentary on the usage of Shakespeare of plays within plays. What I found exceptionally interesting about the play that Hamlet has the actors put on in this situation is that he presents it as a way to test his uncle and see if his uncle was the murderer, yet I saw more shaming of his mother in the play than I did shaming of his uncle in the play. The play takes so much time exploring the love promises between his mother and father that it is almost a commentary of what is making him upset and act so crazy. While he wants to see the new King’s reaction and gauge whether or not his uncle should be killed for murdering his father, it also is a way to make his mother squirm and wish that she had thought things through more. I feel that the play is meant to be a wake-up call to his mother.

  2. Courtney Ann

    I find that the play within a play that Shakespeare has Hamlet do is a strategic point in baiting not only Claudius into his guilt, but also to compromise the crossing of boundaries that his mother had done by bedding and then marrying her late husband’s brother in such a short period of time after the murder. Just the sheer hilarity that comes out of the Player Characters portraying Gertrude and Claudius brings out the essence of what Hamlet is trying to expose in the true character’s flaws. Though Gertrude and Claudius see him as mad, Hamlet is practically the most cunning person in the whole entire play.


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