| Quote #4
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
We've already seen how Hamlet likes to place himself in the role of a stage actor – like when he puts on an "antic disposition" (see 1.5.58 above). We've also seen Hamlet suggest that outward behavior and "show" could never truly denote the kind of grief he feels inside (see 1.2.2 above). Here, however, Hamlet witnesses a stage actor deliver a very moving speech about the death of a legendary king and the grief of the king's wife, Hecuba. Here, Hamlet's response to the performance seems to suggest that acting can in fact simulate intense grief and passion.
We also notice that Hamlet berates himself for not being enough of like this skilled actor. If the player can conjure up such intensity and "passion" for a fictional character, why can't Hamlet move himself to action against the man who killed his father? By the end of the passage, Hamlet tries to place himself in the position of this stage actor and wonders what the player would do if he had Hamlet's "motive" and "cue for passion" (that is, the knowledge that Claudius has killed his father).
| Quote #5
Hamlet wants the traveling players to put on a play (The Murder of Gonzago, a.k.a. The Mousetrap) in order to "catch the conscience of the king." The idea is that when King Claudius watches a murder take place on stage, his emotional response will reveal whether or not he's guilty of murdering Old King Hamlet. (Here, Hamlet reveals he can't tell if the Ghost has been telling him the truth so he wants to be sure.) This may sound a bit wacky to us but Hamlet's idea seems to echo what some Elizabethans believed—that is, the theater was a very powerful place, where murderers could be moved to confession by a dramatic performance.
On the other hand, Elizabethan theater was also considered to be a dangerous place because it could potentially move audience members to murder. Time for a history snack: In 1601, the Earl of Essex's rebel faction asked Shakespeare's theater company to perform Richard II (a play in which Henry Bolingbroke usurps the throne from the corrupt King Richard II). The very next day, Essex led an unsuccessful revolt against Queen Elizabeth I when he stormed the queen's court. It seems that Essex's faction felt a performance of Richard II could help stir them to action, which makes the theater seem like a space that could stir up trouble.
| Quote #6
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness (3.2.1).
Here, Hamlet plays the part of a stage director/acting coach as the traveling players prepare for their performance of The Murder of Gonzago. Hamlet's theory is that restraint in speech is better than hamming it up – he tells a player not to "mouth it" (speak the lines in an exaggerated way, like a "town-crier"), but to speak naturally, with a kind of "smoothness."