Why is Hamlet's speech to the players important?

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This speech is important because it gives us insights into Shakespeare's theory of acting. We will recall that we have no indication outside of the plays of what Shakespeare thought or desired: we have not one personal letter or scrap of a journal entry from him. Therefore, Hamlet's speech provides a good deal of information about how Shakespeare viewed theater.

Hamlet, for instance, instructs the players (actors) to try to be as natural as possible and not to overact or over-emote. He says to them:

Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature . . .

Clearly (as can be seen as well in plays like A Midsummer Night's Dream), Shakespeare had problems with the actors who "hammed" it up too much. Hamlet also instructs the actors that their goal is to please the discerning theatergoer. Doing otherwise might make the audience laugh, but it does no good in the long run:

Now this overdone or come tardy off, though it make...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 563 words.)

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