Internet Shakespeare Editions


Hamlet as actor

An actor in a masque, sketched by Inigo Jones.
From Inigo Jones and Ben Jonson (1853).
University of Victoria Library. Original in the Chatsworth Collection.

Hamlet has strong ideas about actors and performance; one of the reasons that the role is so sought after by actors is that Hamlet is himself, consciously or unconsciously, an actor--and actors love those parts that show how well they can act different roles in the same character.

Is Hamlet consciously acting a part in the first scene he appears, out of tune with the celebration of the rest of the Court? He certainly plans later to "put an antic dispostition on" (1.5.172) to persuade the rest of the Court that he is mad.

What of the scene which Ophelia reports, when Hamlet seems to be acting the part of the rejected lover (2.1.77-100)? Could he be acting a part, and at the same time be sincere?