What different attitudes toward drama are displayed by the various characters in Hamlet?
In the middle of the play, Hamlet uses the traveling acting company to stage a play that will supposedly "catch the conscience of the king." This attempt suggests that theater can be used to reveal hidden qualities, such as the guilty thoughts one would otherwise be able to hide. Certainly, Gertrude's "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" remark indicates the power of a play to do so.
Hamlet has other thoughts on theater, of course. He seems to have been an avid fan of theater: he knows the company of actors and respects their work, cringing at the use of boy actors instead of these professionals, faulting actors who would go "off script" in order to get a personal laugh, and even developing his own theory of realistic acting technique ("hold the mirror up to nature").
As the Player King performs the monologue that Hamlet requests (regarding Hecuba and the murder of Priam), we see that theater can be used to conjure up emotions and make one experience a heightened sense of humanity,...
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