Play within the Play-Hamlet
Play within the Play-Hamlet : Write a short essay on the dramatic importance of the play within the play. Or ‘’Is it right to say that the play within the play is included only to justify Hamlet’s delay in action ? Discuss.
Play within the Play-Hamlet
Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ is the best tragic play by him. The plot of the play is well-constructed. Its episodes and scenes are to the point. A very important scene in the play throws light on psychological importance of a dramatic scene on a man of guilty conscience. It is the play within the play, presented by Hamlet to catch the conscience of the King.
The background of the scene-
Hamlet learns that the ghost of his father visits the fort at midnight. At midnight, Hamlet waits for the ghost and succeeds in having a talk with it. The ghost informs that hamlet’s uncle poisoned him and seduced his wife. It is Hamlet’s duty to take revenge. Hamlet tells about it all to Horatio who remarks that it is very strange and unbelievable.
Hamlet pretends madness to succeed in taking revenge. Hamlet shows his determination to take revenge. It gives him a purpose of living as well as punishing a sinner. His resolution to pretend madness is a part of it. Now he has full faith in the ghost’s report. The following remark confirms the view point.
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word.
After meeting the ghost, Hamlet asks his faithful friends to swear that they will keep it secret. Hamlet tells them about his pretending of madness also. Hamlet has decided to pretend madness in order to take revenge from his uncle. But Hamlet does not succeed in taking revenge. He is rather confused if his uncle is guilty or not. Hamlet calls some players to stage a play. They come and display their art. A player acts the scene of lament on Priam’s murder. It reminds Hamlet of his inaction. Hamlet curses himself for delay in taking revenge. Hamlet rebukes himself for being inactive.
But a true Christian like Hamlet has to confirm if the ghost was real or false. If it was his father’s ghost, he should act otherwise give up the idea of it. He wants more solid grounds than this before killing his uncle. He decides to arrange for a psychological testing of his uncle’s mind and mental instincts. He plans to present the scene of killing of a king in play and decides to watch its impact on the King. If he is upset, he is guilty otherwise the ghost is false.
Play within the Play-Hamlet : Hamlet has called some players to stage a play. Hamlet directs and stages a play, called ‘The Murder of Gonzago’. Before staging of the play, there enter a king and a queen loving each other. They embrace each other. He lays him down upon a bank of flowers. She, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Just then comes in a fellow and takes off his crown.
Now he kisses the crown and pours poison in the sleeper’s ears. Having done it, he goes away. The queen returns, finds the king dead and makes a show of mourning. The poisoner with some three or four men comes in again. They seem to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The poisoner woos the queen with gifts. She seems harsh and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love. The murderer marries queen and wears the royal crown.
Seeing Hamlet is a delightful mood, the Queen is very happy. The King asks Hamlet the title of the play. Hamlet claims it is ‘The Mousetrap’. This play is the dramatization of a murder, done in Vienna. Gonzago is the duke and his wife is Baptista. Lucianus, the poisoner is nephew to the king. According to Hamlet, those who have free souls would not be touched by it.
Seeing the murder scene in it, the King remembers how he had poisoned Hamlet’s father. Feeling upset, the King rises and goes out. This wild action confirms the King’s guilt as well as truth of the ghost’s report. Hamlet is resolute to take revenge.
Dramatic importance of the scene-
The scene claims a great dramatic importance. It confirms the viewpoint that by adopting psychological devices, the guilty may be caught and the value of drama is more than just to entertain and preach. Besides it, just after the scene, Polonius tells Hamlet that Queen has called him in her chamber. Hamlet assures to come to his mother. In this background, Hamlet thinks aloud to be unkind, but not unnatural. He decides to speak daggers to his mother, but use none. Besides, the play within the play proves that Hamlet is not mad. He is a great scholar and knows how to act patiently.
The problem is created by expecting a hasty action from him. While going to her chamber, Hamlet discovers that his uncle is at prayer. Hamlet draws out his sword to kill him. Hamlet has got a good opportunity at this time to kill his uncle for now the uncle is praying. He can’t defend him and there is none else there to save him. But it is his too much thinking that makes him inactive. Hamlet thinks if his uncle dies at this time of praying, he would go to heaven.
It is no revenge that a villain like his uncle kills his father and for that, he sends the villain to heaven. He gives up the idea of killing his uncle at this time. But while talking to his mother, he asks her to give up the King and tells her how the King is a killer. Unfortunately, Polonius is killed during a hot discussion between Hamlet and the Queen. Because of Polonius’ murder, the King is alarmed and he sends Hamlet to England with a view to get him killed in the way. Ophelia grows mad and dies. Laertes longs to take revenge from Hamlet. In this way, the play within the play is very important.
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