"ACT": the Catalyst of Performance in Hamlet

Beginning with Hamlet's encounter with his father's ghost, Shakespeare introduces a line of "action" which his hero then follows throughout the narrative. From missed opportunities to sporadic bursts of movement and progression, Hamlet initially struggles with his stagnancy in change and his reluctance to challenge the present and the secure. Much of his inhibition stems from his preoccupation with fate and its cousins fortune, luck and chance. A good deal more originates in his contempt for the falsity of those who appear to be perpetually stage acting. Shakespeare's use of the word "act" serves all of these issues, albeit in different manners for each. The term's placement reflects its evolving definition from stoic noun to dynamic verb alongside Hamlet's development from immobility to action. This is perpetuated when "act" describes his shifting attitudes on fate, and unveils the true nature of his acquaintances through their deliberately artificial roles as performers.

The theme of "acting", of deceptiveness, playing, mimicking, is present throughout much of Hamlet. It is so pervasive, and on such a magnificent scale, that even Hamlet's death is played out in...

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