Metatheater as ThemeMetatheater, or "theater about theater," is a theme of Hamlet.  The "Murder of Gonzago," of course, is the most obvious example.  Hamlet spying on Claudius...

Metatheater as Theme

Metatheater, or "theater about theater," is a theme of Hamlet.  The "Murder of Gonzago," of course, is the most obvious example.  Hamlet spying on Claudius in prayer is another.  Where else in Hamlet do you detect the theme of metatheater? 

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malibrarian's profile pic

malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I pictured various scenes in Acts 2 and 3.  When I read the question, I first thought of Gertrude watching Hamlet coming into the room, feigning madness in 2.2, where she says, "But look where sadly the poor wretch comes reading."  Then, of course, there's his famous "To be or not to be" in 3.1, with Polonius and Claudius looking on, as well as their continued spying of Hamlet and Ophelia in the same scene.

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

I think the next most obvious theatre about theatre is when Hamlet has an exchange with Polonius in Act 3 Scene 2 right before the play within a play takes place. Hamlet asks Polonius about his acting at the university. Being egotistical Polonius goes on to tell the group that he played Julius Caesar and he did quite well in the part.

Polonius: "I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i' th' Capitol. Brutus killed me."

Hamlet: "It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there."

  Good example.  And just FYI (I mentioned this in another post), the same actor in Shakespeare's company who played Caesar also played Polonious.  It's a pretty funny "in-joke" in that light, don't you think? 

clane's profile pic

clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I think the next most obvious theatre about theatre is when Hamlet has an exchange with Polonius in Act 3 Scene 2 right before the play within a play takes place. Hamlet asks Polonius about his acting at the university. Being egotistical Polonius goes on to tell the group that he played Julius Caesar and he did quite well in the part.

Polonius: "I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i' th' Capitol. Brutus killed me."

Hamlet: "It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there."

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