What are specific examples of the acting motif in Hamlet?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Of course, the obvious connection between the “motif” of acting and Hamlet is the instructions to the players (III, ii), often cited for its double meaning, a part of the play’s development and an admonishment to Shakespeare’s own actor contemporaries (“nor do not mouth your words”, “I ‘d as lief the town crier spoke my lines”, etc.), and the play within a play (a popular device in many of Shakespeare’s plays).  Subtler and more intriguing are the many occasions of “acting” on the part of the characters themselves, starting with the King and Hamlet’s mother, continuing on to Hamlets’ own “putting an antic disposition on” (and even his “knighted colors” a kind of costume to signify his grief).   “Acting as a whole” is an art and a social artifice, wherein people disguise their real identity by “acting” sincere or friendly or loving, etc.  Hamlet’s treatment of Ophelia is questioned as an “act” and not real courtship, for example, or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern “act” a friendship that was “hired” by the King and Gertrude (you could even say “cast" to be in the “play” of the court.)  The sociological elements of acting are explored by sociologists and rhetoricians (see Kenneth Burke's "dramatism"). Finally, the element of “lies like truth” in acting can be seen in such scenes as “The Mousetrap” play.  

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial