The players in Hamlet are a significant part of the story, and their role cannot be underestimated. Without the players, Hamlet would not be able to stage his “play within a play” and thus would not be able to catch his uncle in the act of murdering his father.
The players also serve as a way for Hamlet to express himself. He is able to pour out his feelings and thoughts through the characters in the play, which he could not do otherwise. This is evident in his soliloquy in Act III, Scene ii, where he talks about how he wishes he could just die and end his pain.
In addition, the players represent Hamlet’s only connection to the outside world. He is cut off from his friends and family, and the players are the only ones who he can really trust. This is evident in Hamlet’s conversation with Horatio in Act III, Scene ii, where he says that he believes the Player Queen is “honest” and that he would trust her with his life.
Finally, the players provide comic relief in an otherwise dark and tragic play. Hamlet is a tragedy, but there are moments of levity provided by the players. This lightens the mood and helps to balance out the heavy themes of the play.
All in all, the players are a vital part of Hamlet and their significance should not be underestimated. They provide Hamlet with a way to express himself, a connection to the outside world, and comic relief. They are an essential part of the story and help to make Hamlet the great play that it is.
The characters’ significance extends beyond the goal of amusement, since each has the ability to expose “the occulted guilt” (3.2.75) and conscience of the King. Hamlet is charged with instructing these players in a way that a “whirlwind of passion” (6) does not successfully separate Claudius from personally identifying with the play.
The characters of the players become Hamlet’s “instruments” (6) to an end that will see his uncle “not pardonable” (4.2.23).
The first time Hamlet sees the players is during their performance of _The Murder of Gonzago_, a play-within-a-play which Hamlet has written and staged in order to test his uncle’s guilt. He is pleased with their acting, but even more importantly, he is pleased with the way in which they have been able to capture the attention of the court:
“O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst thou not hear it? The player king spoke ‘Amen’ after the ghost’s speech, and then let out such a bloody fart that Hamlet was afraid his uncle would catch his death of it.” (3.2.74-77)
In the end, Hamlet’s enthusiastic approach to direction may be meant to encourage the players to “suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special attention that you overstep not nature’s modesty,” as his father had instructed him (16-18). However, this caution might help explain why Hamlet is so hesitant about taking action in avenging his father’s death. His direction confines him to a flood of words as he drowns in his own truth.
Hamlet’s self-discovery is the only discovery that matters to Hamlet. This is ironic given his profession as an actor, and Hamlet’s role within the theater of his own life. Hamlet is an actor who refuses to act, and this may be a result of his understanding that all the world is a stage.
As Hamlet directs the players, he also reveals his feelings about Ophelia. He instructs them,”Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounc’d it to/ you, trippingly on the tongue” (22-23). Hamlet’s delivery is harsh and cold. Hamlet’s concern with language continues when he says ” Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus/ Hamlet’s talk of hands may suggest his own physical and mental instability. Hamlet is aware of the potential for artifice and manipulation that exists within language, and he does not want to be responsible for such things.
The players are significant to Hamlet because they provide him with a way to confront his reality. Hamlet must come to terms with who he is and what he believes in. The players offer Hamlet a way to do this through their art. Hamlet can use the players to act out his thoughts and feelings. This is significant because it allows Hamlet to process his experience in a safe and controlled environment. The players are also significant because they represent the larger world of theater and art.
Hamlet takes advantage of the situation to take control for a period, but it’s unclear if he is controlling a representation of reality or something else. He exhibits such madness well as an actor that he can effortlessly transform his personality into one of lunacy by seeing “a damned ghost” (77). He establishes himself in this role so firmly as an actor that he can simply utilize it as the basis for his own players.
Hamlet’s “insanity” is a role he plays to such an extreme that his own mother believes it and is frightened of him. Hamlet, in a final confrontation with Laertes, even arranges a fencing match in which he will be “cut to pieces” (115). This confirms Hamlet’s suicidal state of mind, but also suggests that death is not Hamlet’s only option for revenge. If Hamlet cannot kill Claudius through action, he can at least kill him through words.
The players are essential to Hamlet’s plot for revenge because they provide Hamlet with the vehicle by which he can publicly accuse and shaming Claudius. Hamlet’s goal is to make Claudius feel guilty for his crimes, and the players help Hamlet to do just that. Hamlet uses the players to put on a play called “The Murder of Gonzago,” which is based on the real murder of Hamlet’s father.
Hamlet has the players perform this play in front of Claudius, hoping that the sight of the play will make Claudius feel guilty. Hamlet is successful in his plan, and Claudius does indeed feel guilty. However, Hamlet does not kill Claudius at this point because he wants to be sure that Claudius is really guilty before taking his revenge. Hamlet uses the players again later in the play to help him confirm Claudius’ guilt.
Hamlet has the players perform a dumb show, or a pantomime, which is a silent play that uses gestures and body language to communicate the story. Hamlet uses the dumb show to communicate his own thoughts and feelings about the murder of his father, as well as to make Claudius feel guilty. Hamlet is successful in both of these goals, and he finally kills Claudius at the end of the play.
Hamlet’s orders to the players result in a victory for Claudius, who shouts, “Give me some light. Away” (254). Horatio’s analysis of King Hamlet’s reaction confirms his guilt-filled conscience as he was forced to observe the reenactment of his brother’s murder.
The players also Hamlet to solidify his feigned madness. When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern question Hamlet about the play, Hamlet states, “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go” (263-264). Hamlet’s use of the word “madness” implies that he is not truly mad, but is instead using the appearance of madness to further his revenge plot against Claudius. In this way, the players help Hamlet to maintain the charade of his madness, which is essential to his ultimate goal.
The players are also significant in that they provide Hamlet with an outlet for his feelings. When Hamlet is talking to Horatio about how he wishes he could die, he says, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself/ a king of infinite space” (274-275).
Hamlet is clearly feeling hemmed in and constrained by his circumstances, but is unable to do anything about it. However, through his work with the players, Hamlet is able to express his feelings and emotions in a creative and productive way. This outlet allows Hamlet to maintain his sanity throughout the play.
In conclusion, the players are significant to Hamlet in several ways. They provide him with evidence of Claudius’s guilt, help him to maintain his feigned madness, and offer him an outlet for his emotions. Without the players, Hamlet would not be able to successfully complete his revenge plot.