Hamlet: A Political Play or Domestic Drama? 12th Grade

In ‘Hamlet’, Shakespeare develops his various characters through the balance of two specific dimensions. He uses these two perspectives to give his audience the opportunity to view his play through two distinct scopes. Shakespeare chooses to do this in a variety ways, which not only affects the overall meaning of the theatrical piece and his characters’ relationships, but to ultimately establish how these two interpretations coincide.

One way in which Shakespeare overlaps these two dimensions is through Polonius. Although he is ‘traditionally played as a comic character’[1] more recent productions, such as Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 adaptation, have chosen to ‘emphasise his sinister side’[2]. This is because until his murder, his domestic affairs collide heavily with the political due to him applying his conniving surveillance methods to maintain a watchful eye upon his son, Laertes. Such as in Act 2 Scenes 1 when Polonius consults with Reynaldo, an agent who is to be sent to Paris to ‘inquire of [Leartes’] behaviour’ and spy on his personal life. This would have been humorous for an Elizabethan audience for here Shakespeare alludes to a popular rumour that Queen Elizabeth’s chief minister, Lord Burghley, had sent spies to Paris to...

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