Shakespearian Theater

Posted: October 17th, 2013





Shakespearian Theater

The term “theater” refers to a form of fine art that uses actors and other performers to express the past or present experiences in front of a live audience. Theater also refers to the specific location of the performance. In the past, this could be the Colosseum or the Amphitheater in ancient Rome. The performers present their message through a variety of combined speech, music, dance and song. In theater, the art is concerned with live performance and the planned dramatic action by characters. Apart from the skill of the actors, theater uses design and other stagecraft elements like props and costumes to develop the presence, immediacy and physicality of the theatre experience.

History of the play Hamlet

Hamlet was written during the middle ages of Shakespeare’s growth as a writer. During this period, comedy and history were beginning to fade out of his works and being replaced by sadder feeling that caused him to write about tragedy. The first version of Hamlet was published in 1604 and was largely disputed as being a different version to the final version of Hamlet that was later produced. In this earlier version, Polonius was replaced by Reynaldo and other foreign names such as Montano and Corambis appear. The order of the scenes was also different. In terms of character, the rage exhibited by Prince Hamlet was stronger and this was watered down over the succeeding versions of the play.

Most of the research into the earlier versions of Hamlet indicates two different authors although the claim was never fully investigated. For instance, in Act II, Scene II, the earlier versions had completely conflicting storylines with the later versions. Before the writing of Hamlet, Shakespeare had also written other closely similar tragedies such as the Hystorie of Hamlet In this version; The Hamlet becomes King of Denmark after avenging the death of a loved one and finally dies in battle. The influence that Hamlet has had on the theater environment has been massive. The play was first performed publicly in 1600 in the Elizabethan era where there was a great demand for theater entertainment. The exact setting of the play was in Eastern Denmark in a town called Elsinore.

Types of Shakespearian theatre

Drama -Tragedy

Tragedy refers to specific categories of dramas that were based on human suffering and misfortunes and involved scenes depicting losses, suffering and death. Modern tragedies have been defined into melodramas, epic theaters and tragicomic. Drama is the representation of fictional stories in performances. It involves actors on stage who perform before an audience. The performers are instructed by dramatic scripts and are influenced by collective forms of reception. Categories of dramas include tragedies, comedies, poetry and historical works. Early dramas include Hamlet by Shakespeare in 1601.

Hamlet was a tragedy in which the prince of Denmark, Prince Hamlet revenges the killing of king Hamlet by murdering Claudius, his uncle (Carlin et al 230). His uncle Claudius had murdered his father and then took over the throne and the king’s widow and his mother, Gertrude. The dominant themes in the play are revenge, family wrangles, grief, incest and corruption. The play is set in the Danish Royal castle where Claudius is first exposed to the ghost of his father that informs him of Claudius’s plot to murder him. The ghost also instructed Hamlet to avenge his death in a discrete way.

Prince Hamlet is also romantically involved with one of the royal officials’ daughters, Ophelia. Although this relationship contributes to a small part of the plot, it suffices to increase the entertainment by displaying the childish antics that are displayed by Prince Hamlet as he courts Ophelia. The enmity between Hamlet and Claudius takes in new levels when Claudius suspects that Hamlet might have discovered his secret. Hamlet is also unsure about his father’s advice to avenge his death so he decided to test whether Claudius was guilty by staging his father’s death in a play, The Murder of Gonzago. In the struggles between Hamlet and his mother, Polonius, Ophelia’s father who was spying on them was stabbed and died. The ghost of his father however continues to remind Prince Hamlet of his unfinished agenda.

King Claudius fearing for his life, decided to send Prince Hamlet on a supposed diplomatic assignment but in reality, he wanted to make sure he was assassinated. Meanwhile, rumors were being spread that Prince Hamlet was the murderer of Polonius and this created hatred among Polonius family including Ophelia and his brother, Laertes. When the news that Prince Hamlet was not killed in his first plan, Claudius hatches another plan that would kill Hamlet but make it look like an accident. Claudius set up a fencing match with Laertes, the most skillful swordsman in the town.

Themes in Hamlet

Revenge is a dominant theme in the play, Hamlet. Revenge motivates all the actions of Hamlet and Laertes. During this period, revenge tragedies were a common genre in theaters. When Hamlet talks to the ghost of his father and is informed of the way in which his father died, he vows to avenge the killing. Other concerns however interfere with his plans for example when he finds Claudius praying, he hesitates to kill him for fearing that he may go to heaven. Hamlet was determined to send Claudius to hell because he betrayed his own brother and deceived the family and subjects. During most of the play, Hamlet was unsure of whether he could take revenge until the assurance that came from the reaction by Claudius in seeing a duplication of the murder of an actor in a play. Laertes is also equally bent on avenging his father’s death. Although Hamlet tries his best to explain the circumstances that led to Polonius being stabbed, Laertes was determined to challenge Hamlet to a duel with a poisoned sword.

Within Hamlet, deception also surfaces as a dominant theme. Claudius starts out by claiming the King’s throne by murdering his own brother. In assuming a false position, Hamlet sought to depose him from the throne because of this action. Hamlet may have also been deceived by another ghost that was not his father’s ghost. The instructions to avenge his father’s death might have been falsified. Hamlet can also be said to have deceived the royal family by feigning madness while in reality, he was secretly plotting how to revenge behind people’s backs. He even deceived the audience into viewing the play The Murder of Gonzago that he would get an affirmation of Claudius’s guilt.

In the play, the concept of self is clearly brought out in the focus on Prince Hamlet who is at the center of everything within Hamlet. The prince embarks on a journey to write out his own course of life. Hamlet is concerned with his inner self for example in Act I, Scene II line 78 -86, hamlet contrasts his outward appearance and behavior to his inward character that cannot be easily displayed or measured. Hamlet also believes in the impact that the inner person has in determining one’s experiences and perceptions of the outside world when he has a discussion with Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. The expression of this part of the play is brought out in very strong wording.

Within Hamlet, the usage of a play within a play is an important aspect in entertaining the audience, adding suspense to the storyline and developing the plot. Prince Hamlet seeks out the help of foreign actors who arrive at the castle to put on the play, The Murder of Gonzago. This play had been edited slightly to gauge the reaction of the King when he witnesses the murder of the actor. Using the reaction by Claudius, Prince Hamlet was able to determine that he was indeed the killer. Other aspects of duplicity appear in the roles played by Polonius as he plans on how to spy on Hamlet. Claudius also has his own play within a play when he plans to kill his brother, marry his wife and take up leadership as the king.

Theatre performance of Hamlet

The production of theater projects is done in various ways according to their purpose and degree of sophistication. The performers in these theaters can be professionals or novices and the budget for production could be tight or bloated. Broadway performances of Hamlet were typically performed in the professional theaters in New York City. Broadway represents the highest levels of theater production within Europe and America. The number of attendants for most of Broadway’s shows reaches up to 12.13 million individuals annually. Off-Broadway Theater can be considered a smaller form of Broadway. This term refers to theaters having a seating capacity of up to 500 (Greenfield 34).

The attendance of Hamlet has achieved many records in box offices and theaters. When the televised version of the movie was first launched in 2009, the attendance increased by 2.5% in most theaters. The success in straight plays was even more encouraging. Within London alone, over 1 million theatergoers viewed the play indicating a 19% increase in theater attendance. Apart from conventional theaters, Hamlet has also been performed in most parks and community theaters (Greenfield 34).

Critical appraisal of theater

The evolution of theater over the years has produced developments which have had been both beneficial and detrimental to the industry and to other aspects of society. The commercialization of the different theatrical performances has slowly diminished the quality of stage performances. The current numbers of actors within most production houses are paid millions of dollars. The emergence of technology promoted Hollywood as a powerful force in acting continues to drive live theater out of existence. The major costs of producing these highly successful movies commercialized the theater. The evolution of technology also contributed towards the death of the theater. The invention of the television and video cameras was a major boost for theater productions as they could be aired as television shows that helped popularize them. However, the growth of commercialized movies that did not follow the traditional structures of performance overtook live theater. This led to the decrease in prominence in the attendance of live theater shows.


The theater has been home to the creation and promotion of different cultures, attitudes and trends within society. The actors have continuously influenced the rest of the society through their presentations on different topics and themes in society. Theater was responsible for most of the change in the political and economic trends during the Renaissance period. The evolution of theater performances has produced classical performances in expressionism and futurism. Theater is also responsible for the creation of many jobs. The establishment and success of Warner Brothers is an example of the potential that theater holds. Some of the most prominent individuals that have had an influence on the world through theater include Beethoven, Sean Connery, Shakespeare and Mozart.

Work Cited

Carlin, Richard, and Kinshasha Conwill. Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment. Washington, DC: National Museum of African American History and Culture through Smithsonian Books, 2010. Print.

Greenfield, Thomas A. Broadway: An Encyclopedia of Theater and American Culture. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood, 2010. Print.

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