Another technique that Shakespeare uses to hold attention in Hamlet is one that is common among all good playwrights. Lajos Egri, in his excellent book The Art of Dramatic Writiing, calls this "orchestration." The analogy is to orchestral music and to opera. If Hamlet were an opera, for example,...
Another technique that Shakespeare uses to hold attention in Hamlet is one that is common among all good playwrights. Lajos Egri, in his excellent book The Art of Dramatic Writiing, calls this "orchestration." The analogy is to orchestral music and to opera. If Hamlet were an opera, for example, Hamlet would be the tenor, Ophelia the soprano, Gertrude probably the contralto, and Claudius the baritone.
Shakespeare keeps changing the characters and the combinations of characters on stage. You will notice that he shows the characters together in nearly every possible combination of twos and threes. Hamlet appears with the Ghost (who would certainly be the basso profundo), with Ophelia, with Polonius, with his mother in a stirring duet, in a trio with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and so on. The scene in which Claudius is praying for forgiveness for his sins would make an excellent solo for that character. There is a trio involving Gertrude, Claudius and Laertes and another involving Polonius, Ophelia and Laertes. There is an opportunity for a love duet between Hamlet and Ophelia. There is an excellent opportunity for a "mad scene" involving the soprano Ophelia. There are, of course, plenty of opportunities for solos (soliloquies) by the tenor Hamlet.
The principle involved in orchestration is to have a number of contrasting characters and to keep changing them around so that the audience never knows what to expect next. This holds audience attention. The way to lose audience attention is to focus on one character and one scene too long. Variety is the spice of life.
Hamlet is possibly the best orchestrated of all of Shakespeare's tragedies, which may account for its popularity. The comedy As You Like It is very well orchestrated with a large cast of contrasting characters. Rosalind would be the soprano and Orlando the tenor. Celia would be the contralto. Touchstone would be like Mozart's Papageno in The Magic Flute.