The Question is Not “To Be or Not To Be” but “How to be”
William Shakespeare, rightly called England’s national poet is considered as the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. His works include thirty eight plays, one fifty four sonnets and two narrative poems. Though the authorship of the works are frequently put under question, the genius implicit in them is undeniable. His plays are widely translated and read vividly. He could be called as the pioneer of the distinct class called the ‘English Drama’. He formulated a form of drama different from the traditional Greek convention which is now termed as the ‘Shakespearean Drama’. He was a rapid innovator and redefined the Three Unities and ‘Hamartia’.
Plays in England had their origin with the Mystery and Miracle Plays wherein, Bible stories and lives of Saints were depicted as a means of religious preaching. Later, Morality Plays originated which represented virtue and vice as allegories. Also called the Interlude, Morality Plays were famous during the Medieval and Early Tudor theatre. The protagonist was the spokesperson for humanity and the other characters were personifications of good and evil. Morality plays were written for didactic purposes and aimed at the refining of the crude human soul. Later, many forms were developed and put into the theatre.
Shakespeare’s plays can be considered as a diminutive of the Morality Plays. His plays carry an undercurrent of a moral statement. However, he being a distinguished innovator, formulated his own style in conveying the morals. His characters were not allegories and he did not preach the morals. Rather, his true to life characters enforced the morals. Yet, it is not stated in words in the form of dialogues but is born of the action itself which makes it remarkable.
Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play and is placed among the most influential tragedies of English language. The play was popular during his lifetime much like how it is deemed today. The...