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Seminar no.

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SHAKESPEARES SONNETS
Sonnet = poem of 14 lines, usually in iambic pentameter, restricted to a definite rhyme scheme. There are
two prominent types: the Italian, or Petrarchan, sonnet, and the Elizabethan, or Shakespearean, sonnet. The
English or Shakespearean sonnet was first introduced by Henry Howard, but Shakespeare made it famous.
Terms explanation
Iambic Pentameter is the rhythm and metre in which poets and playwrights wrote in Elizabethan
England. It is a metre that Shakespeare uses.
Quite simply, it sounds like this: dee DUM, dee DUM, dee DUM, dee DUM, dee DUM. It consists of a
line of five iambic feet, ten syllables with five unstressed and five stressed syllables. It is the first and last
sound we ever hear: it is the rhythm of the human heart beat.
Pentameter there are five iambs per line
But soft, what light through yonder1 window breaks. (Write this down and underline the stressed words.
This rhythm is iambic pentameter!)
Although Shakespeare is today best known for his plays, his sonnets still rank among the worlds bestloved poems. The 1609 collection of 154 sonnets was dedicated to Mr. W.H., the only begetter of these . . .
sonnets. (supposedly, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd earl of Southampton) The dedication was signed by T.T.,
(Thomas Thorpe, the publisher).
The first 126 sonnets are addressed to a handsome young nobleman, presumably the authors patron. The
poems express the writers devotion to the young man. The next 28 sonnets are written to a dark lady, whom
the poet seemingly cannot resist. Another figure in the sequence is the rival poet. Although no systematic
narrative develops in the sonnets, there is a thematic link between the young man group and the dark lady
group of sonnets. The youth and the mistress betray the poet, and at one point the author criticizes the young man
for stealing the dark lady from him.
Shakespeares sonnets are frequently more earthly than contemporary sonnet sequences by other poets.
Shakespeare purposely reverses conventional gender roles as displayed in Petrarchan sonnets to create a more
complex and troubling depiction of love.
The sonnets are marked by the recurring themes of beauty, youthful beauty ravaged by time, and the
ability of love and art to transcend time and even death.
The form of the poems is that of a fourteen-line sonnet. The lines, which each have ten syllables, are
arranged into three quatrains, or groups of four lines, and a final couplet (two successive lines that rhyme). The
rhyme scheme of the sonnets is abab cdcd efef gg. A theme is developed and elaborated in the quatrains, and a
concluding thought is presented in the couplet (it introduces an unexpected turn called a volta2).
The sonnets which Shakespeare addressed to the young man were apparently written over a period of four
or five years. One reads of his beauty, his sweetness, his obstinate bachelorhood which forbids the immortality
which children can bestow, and of the poets resolution to immortalize the young man in poetry. Sweet was his
favourite epithet because it describes a quality he admired and a state which recurs in his verse from the
beginning to the end of his career. It is a quality which the early sonnets admire in the young man, and it is the
quality of the opening lines of sonnet 18.
Right from the first line, the poet introduces the theme, with a question. The poet takes the summer day as
the top of perfection. Then we are presented a scale of imperfections which encompass the whole universal
mechanism of change and mutability.
The first two quatrains focus on the fair lords beauty: the poet attempts to compare it to a summers day,
but shows that there can be no such comparison, since the fair lords timeless beauty far surpasses that of the
fleeting, inconstant season. In line 7 the poet speaks of the inevitable mortality of beauty: And every fair from
fair sometime declines. But the fair lords is of another sort, for it shall not fade the poet is eternalizing the
fair lords beauty in his verse, in these eternal lines.
The poet describes summer as a season of extremes and disappointments. He begins in lines 3-4, where
rough winds are an unwelcome extreme and the shortness of summer is its disappointment. He continues in
lines 5-6, where he lingers on the imperfections of the summer sun. Here again we find an extreme and a
disappointment: the sun is sometimes far too hot, while at other times its gold complexion is dimmed by passing
clouds. These imperfections contrast sharply with the poets description of the fair lord, who is more temperate
(not extreme) and whose eternal summer shall not fade (i.e., will not become a disappointment) thanks to what
the poet proposes in line 12.

1
2

being at a distance, either within view or as if within view


a quick-moving Italian dance popular during the 16th and 17th centuries

In line 12 we find the poets solution how he intends to eternalize the fair lords beauty. The poet plans
to capture the fair lords beauty in his verse (eternal lines), which he believes will withstand the ravages of time.
He concludes with a promise of immortality which, for the first time in the sonnets, is fully realized:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade, Nor lose possession of that fair thou owst; Nor shall death brag thou
wanderst in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou growst: So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
It is a poem celebrating three things: the poets power, the young mans beauty, and his unspoiled
nature. The more one studies the sonnets in search of the young man, the more one learns of Shakespeare. The
qualities of the young friend which the opening sonnets insist upon are his beauty and temperateness. The
temperateness was soon to change, but the beauty remained to the end.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
SONNET XVIII
Sonetul 18
Romanian Version
S te aseamn cu o zi de var?
Shall I compare thee to a summers day ?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Tu ai un chip mai ginga, mai senin:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
Vnt aspru-n Mai flori tinere doboar,
And summers lease hath all too short a date;
i-arenda verii ine prea puin;
5
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
Cerescul ochi e uneori dogoare,
i-ascuns e zmalu-i auriu, adese.
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
i-n tot ce-i farmec, farmecul dispare;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
Cnd fire-n mers ori soarta i-1 desese.
By chance or natures changing course untrimmed;
Dar vara ta etern nu apune,
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nici farmecul ce azi te-mpodobete.
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
Nici val asupr-i Moartea nu va pune,
10 Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
Cnd tu, prin timp, n vers etern vei crete :
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
Ct inimi bat, i-n ochi mai e scnteie,
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
Mi-e cntul viu, i viaa o s-i deie.
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
What is Shakespeare saying in Sonnet 18?
Shall I compare thee to a summers day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
What if I were to compare you to a summer day? You are lovelier and more temperate (the perfect
temperature):
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May / And summers lease hath all too short a date:
Summers beauty is fragile and can be shaken, and summertime fades away all too quickly:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines / And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
Sometimes the sun is far too hot, and often it is too cool, dimmed by clouds and shade;
And every fair from fair sometime declines / By chance or natures changing course untrimmed;
And everything that is beautiful eventually loses its beauty, whether by chance or by the uncontrollable
course of nature;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade / Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
But your eternal beauty (or youth) will not fade, nor will your beauty by lost;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade / When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
Nor will Death boast that you wander in his shadow, since you shall grow with time through these
sonnets:
So long as men can breathe and eyes can see / So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
For as long as people can breathe and see, this sonnet will live on, and you (and your beauty) with it.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE - HAMLET
The tragedies Shakespeare wrote after 1600 are considered the most profound of his works and constitute
the pillars upon which his literary reputation rests. Some scholars have tied the darkening of his dramatic
imagination in this period to the death of his son in 1601. But it remains only a speculation.
Hamlet, written about 1601 and first printed in 1603, is perhaps Shakespeares most famous play. It
exceeds by far most other tragedies of revenge in the power of its ethical and psychological imagining.
Sources:
 Thomas Kyds Hamlet in the 1580s (now lost); this is referred to as the Ur-Hamlet.
 Thomas Kyds Spanish Tragedy (1587) (a revenge tragedy)
 Saxo Grammaticuss Historica Danica/Gesta Danorum written in the second half of twelfth century

 The play is based on the story of Amleth, a 9th-century Danish prince, which Shakespeare encountered in a
16th-century French account by Franois Belleforest. Hamlet is from Amleth in Belleforest; the Danish name
means fool or one who feigns madness. In the original, Amleth feigns madness to keep away from his
murderous uncle.
Shakespeares Hamlet tells the story of the princes effort to revenge the murder of his father, who has
been poisoned by Hamlets uncle, Claudius, the man who then becomes Hamlets stepfather and the king. The
prince alternates between rash action and delay that disgusts him, as he tries to enact the revenge his fathers ghost
has asked from him. The play ends in a spectacular scene of death: As Hamlet, his mother, his uncle, and Laertes
(the lord chamberlains son) all lie dead, the Norwegian prince Fortinbras marches in to claim the Danish throne.
Hamlet is certainly Shakespeares most intellectually engaging and elusive play.
The plot contains elements of

revenge tragedy

fratricide

murder

existentialist self-questioning

supernatural intervention.
PLOT
This is a story about young Prince Hamlet who bears the same name as his father, the King of Denmark,
who has recently and unexpectedly died. Hamlets uncle, Claudius, has inherited the throne and taken the former
kings wife (Prince Hamlets mother), Gertrude, as his own. Prince Hamlet is greatly grieved by the usurpation of
the throne by Claudius and Gertrudes hasty remarriage to her departed husbands brother, whom Prince Hamlet
considers hardly worthy of comparison to his father.
On a dark winter night, a ghost resembling the deceased King Hamlet appears to Bernardo, Marcellus,
watchmen of Elsinore Castle in Denmark, and Horatio, a scholar of Wittenberg. The ghost seemingly has an
important message to deliver. However, the ghost vanishes before his message can be told. The sentries notify the
prince, determining his investigation into the matter. The ghost appears once again and speaks to Hamlet,
revealing to him that his father was murdered by Claudius. After commanding Hamlet to avenge his fathers
death, the ghost disappears. Hamlet plots to confirm Claudiuss guilt by feigning madness.
Upon notice of Claudius and Gertrude, a pair of Hamlets schoolfriends named Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern are appointed to monitor him and discover the cause of his apparent insanity. Polonius, the
counsellor to the king, suspects that the origin of Hamlets madness lies with his love for Polonius daughter,
Ophelia. However, in a secretly overseen meeting between the two suspected lovers, there is no evidence that
Hamlet loves Ophelia; on the contrary, he orders her away to a nunnery.
Hamlet contrives a plan to uncover Claudiuss guilt by staging a play re-enacting the murder. Claudius
interrupts the play midway through and leaves the room. Horatio confirms the kings reaction and Hamlet goes to
avenge his father. He is ready to kill when he finds Claudius in prayer but concludes that killing him now would
result in his souls going to heaven an inappropriate fate for such an evil person. However, when he leaves,
Claudius reveals that he had not been praying in a very pious manner.
Hamlet goes to confront and reprimand his mother. He hears a noise behind the curtain and believes it is
Claudius, eavesdropping. He blindly stabs the body behind the curtain, not realizing it is in fact Polonius. Hamlet
then runs around the castle, away from the guards and poor Ophelia. Fearing for his own safety, Claudius deports
Hamlet to England along with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who, without Hamlets knowledge, had been asked
to kill him.
Ophelia, afflicted by grief, goes mad and drowns in a river. Laertes, her brother and Poloniuss son,
returns from his visit to France enraged. Claudius convinces Laertes that Hamlet is to blame for the death of
Polonius. Hamlet sends word that he has returned to Denmark after his ship was attacked by pirates on the way to
England. Claudius, realizing in Laertes an opportunity to get rid of Hamlet, bets that Hamlet can defeat Laertes in
a fencing match. The fight is a setup; Laertes blade is poisoned, as is the wine in a goblet from which Hamlet is
to drink.
During the competition, Gertrude drinks from the poisoned goblet and dies. Laertes succeeds in cutting
Hamlet, and then he is cut by his own blade. With his dying breath, he reveals the kings plot to kill Hamlet.
Hamlet manages to kill Claudius before he too succumbs to the fatal poison. Fortinbras, a Norwegian prince with
ambitions of conquest, leads his army to Denmark and comes upon the scene. Horatio recounts the tale and
Fortinbras orders Hamlets body to be carried away honourably.
List of Major Characters
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark - Prince Hamlet, the title character, is the son of the late King, also named
Hamlet. He has just back from the university of Wittenberg where he was a student.

Claudius, King of Denmark, Hamlets uncle - Claudius is the current King of Denmark, Hamlets uncle,
who succeeded to the throne upon the death of his brother, the old King Hamlet. He also, in short time, married
Gertrude, his brothers widow. He is revealed to be the killer of King Hamlet.
Gertrude, Queen of Denmark, Hamlets mother - Gertrude is Hamlets mother. Widowed by King
Hamlets death, she rather too quickly married Claudius. In Shakespeares England, marriage to the brother of
ones deceased husband was considered incest by the Church.
Ghost appearing to be Hamlets father, the former king - The ghost is, in form, the old King Hamlet, but
may be an evil spirit. The old king has died recently, so his spirit, while suffering in Purgatory, could be walking
at night, angry and vengeful.
Polonius, counsellor to the king - Polonius (who was known as Corambis in the bad first quarto) is
Claudiuss chief advisor and father to Ophelia and Laertes. He is old, and often humorously played as silly and
loquacious.
Laertes, son of Polonius - Laertes is a young aristocrat who has been living in Paris, and has come home
for the coronation of Claudius.
Ophelia, daughter of Polonius - Ophelia is Poloniuss daughter. She and Hamlet have had a romance,
although whether it was mainly in the form of letters, gifts, and significant looks, or had advanced further, is not
clear. She is later driven mad by her fathers death.
Fortinbras, Prince of Norway - Fortinbras is the Norwegian crown prince. He is the son of King
Fortinbras, who was killed in battle by Hamlets father, so he, too, has vengeance on his mind. His firm and
decisive action contrasts with Hamlets delaying in taking action. His name means strong arm.
THEMES
In Hamlet, certain themes have been repeated in various forms. The most consistent pattern is contrast:
Hamlet contrasted with Fortinbras and Laertes, true friendship with servile hypocrisy, the spiritual with the
physical, the changing with the unchanging, art with nature. In the bewildering variety of the play these stand out
as the figure in the carpet. Hamlet seeks to fly from the world of inconsistency and illusion to a realm of constant
truth. Paradoxically, his efforts lead him to imitate those he most despises: he makes up plays and would himself
be an actor (hypokrites), and on the voyage to England he pulls a trick on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that
would credit the most Machiavellian courtier.
To Ophelia in the nunnery scene he describes himself as proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more
offences, and in his last exchanges with Horatio before the duel, there is a calm acceptance of the currents of life
that lead to death or fulfillment: A mans lifes but to say one, and, There is a special providence in the fall of
a sparrow. Hamlet, accepting the terms and conditions of the duel, marks a reversal in both attitude and practice:
he enters into the rituals of the court whereas he had previously ridiculed them (a custom more honored in the
breach than the observance) and whereas he had before always seen through its various charades to the hidden
meaning beneath, now he allows himself to be fatally fooled.
Some critics take this as indication that Shakespeare contrasts older feudal, and Catholic, attitudes toward
human responsibility with more recent Protestant teaching on the power of divine providence.
One way of construing this development is that Hamelt has finally given up his idealism his attempt to
live his life separate and apart from other mere mortals. He has now entered the battle and proved himself mortal.
This contradiction of his almost Christlike pretensions need not be seen as defeat.
The Freudian reading of the play: Hamlets obsession with his mother has led to his disaster. He had
insisted she remain virginal and pure, assimilating her to the lady of the courtly love tradition, refusing to allow
that a woman might have sexual desires. Now he accepts her frailty: flesh is heir to desire as well as death.
These two developments are not unrelated. Throughout, the most characteristic features of Hamlets mind
are his metaphysics and his misogyny. Clearly Hamlet gives up his metaphysics in the graveyard: holding the
skull of Yorick, he realizes that this is all there is, that there is no life after death and therefore no need to fear
eternal damnation. There is only the here and now, and all that matters is how we perform in it. At that point he is
still railing on the falseness of women: Now get you to my ladys chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch
thick, to this favor she most come. Then he sees Ophelia dead, though it must be admitted that this does not seem
to move him as much as the adversarial grief of Laertes. His last exchange with her had been on Nothing, that
bawdy word play by which he confused the womans private parts with the philosophical speculation, Nothing
can come of nothing. If we can allow that Hamlet is reconciled with his mother before he dies and that he has
renounced his expectations of any world beyond this, then in both cases he has made something of nothing.
Indeed he himself is that something, since he was born of his mothers body, and in accepting his mortality he
aligns himself with her as a creature of the flesh. Like the blind Oedipus then who struck out his eyes with the
pins from his wife-mothers dress so he would never have to look on her body again he sees and knows before
he dies. This is tragedy of the highest order
What survives is another major tenet of Renaissance humanism: man as artist imitates God as creator of
the world. Out of the seemingly exhaustive pessimism of seeing the world as nothing springs the infinite

possibility of mans creative spirit and this is Hamlets essential character, Shakespeares essential theme. We
then see the play as a decreasing of all of mans fallacious expectations the reduction of his pretensions to
nothing. And yet simultaneously we see Hamlet as sonneteer, playwright, philosopher and, finally, in the burden
he passes on to Horatio, autobiographer. He has made himself up out of nothing, and that is his tragic
achievement. The world is nothing, and he has been reduced to nothing. Christlike he transfigures himself. This
was a model unavailable to the Greeks; their tragic heroes could only suffer and accept, thereby gaining the
begrudged approval of the gods. Christian mysticism makes much more available to Hamlet, and Renaissance
humanism makes Hamlet the transcendent artist: God created the world out of nothing; Hamlet sees the world is
nothing; by contradicting the nothing that is the flesh his mother made him, he creates himself in the world of art.
The Mystery of Death
The question of his own death plagues Hamlet as well, as he repeatedly contemplates whether or not
suicide is a morally legitimate action in an unbearably painful world. Hamlets grief and misery is such that he
frequently longs for death to end his suffering, but he fears that if he commits suicide, he will be consigned to
eternal suffering in hell because of the Christian religions prohibition of suicide. In his famous To be or not to
be soliloquy (III.1), Hamlet philosophically concludes that no one would choose to endure the pain of life if he or
she were not afraid of what will come after death, and that it is this fear which causes complex moral
considerations to interfere with the capacity for action.
The Nation as a Diseased Body
Everything is connected in Hamlet, including the welfare of the royal family and the health of the state as
a whole. The plays early scenes explore the sense of anxiety and dread that surrounds the transfer of power from
one ruler to the next. Throughout the play, characters draw explicit connections between the moral legitimacy of a
ruler and the health of the nation. Denmark is frequently described as a physical body made ill by the moral
corruption of Claudius and Gertrude, and many observers interpret the presence of the ghost as a supernatural
omen indicating that [s]omething is rotten in the state of Denmark (I.IV). The dead King Hamlet is portrayed as
a strong, honest ruler under whose guard the state was in good health, while Claudius, a wicked politician, has
corrupted and compromised Denmark to satisfy his own appetites. At the end of the play, the rise to power of the
honest Fortinbras suggests that Denmark will be strengthened once again.
Hamlet and his Masks
Hamlets melancholic disposition and his correspondingly hesitant steps towards taking decisive action
have always baffled readers, theatre-goers and literary critics. Called almost everything from madman, helpless
lover with an Oedipal complex, avenger of a slain father and king or saviour of his nation, Hamlet, Prince of
Denmark, is still a riddle to be solved by any generation.
The play discloses Hamlets different masks which are in fact different sides of his personality. Thus, one
may distinguish between:
- Hamlet, the madman in craft (who tries to prove the veracity of the Ghosts accusations)
- Hamlet, the helpless lover (who is unable to repress his Oedipal feelings and entertain a normal relationship
with Ophelia)
- Hamlet, the director (who, by the play-within-play exposes the murderer of his father)
- Hamlet, the prince saviour and avenger (who tries to eradicate the rottenness in Denmark by killing
Claudius)
Relevant passages from Hamlet
Frailty, thy name is woman! (I,2)
O, nestatornicie, adevratu-i nume e femeie!
Marcellus (I,4): Something is rotten in the state of A putrezit ceva n Danemarca.
Denmark
Ghost (I,5): A serpent stung me ()The serpent that Un arpe m-a mucat.... arpele ce tatl i-l muc, i
did sting thy fathers life/ Now wears his crown.
poart-acum coroana
Ghost (I,5): by a brothers hand/ Of life, of crown, of O mn dar freasc mi-a rpit/deodat viaa, sceptrul
queen, at once dispatchd
i regina.
Hamlet to Ophelia: Doubt thou the stars are fire;/ S nu crezi soarele-amiezii,/ Nici stelele c-s foc
Doubt that the sun doth move; Dobt truth to be a liar; ceresc; Nici adevrul s nu-l crezi,/ Dar crede-n veci c
but never doubt I love.(II,2)
te iubesc.
Hamlet to Guildenstern: I am but mad nort-north- Eu sunt nebun dinspre nord-nord-vest.
west(II,2)
Hamlet to Ophelia: Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst Du-te la mnstire, de ce vrei s prseti doar
thou be a breeder of sinners? it were better my pctoi?... ar fi fost mai bine ca mam-mea s nu m fi
mother had not born me. () If thou dost marry, Ill nscut. (...) Dac te mrii i dau ca zestre acest
give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as blestem: s fii cast ca gheaa, alb ca zpada, i tot nu
ice, as pure as snow, thou shall not escape calumny. vei scpa neterfelit. Menete-i viaa mnstirii, du-te;

Get thee to the nunnery, go, farewell. Or, if thou wilt


needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well
enough what monsters you make of them. To a
nunnery, go, and quickly too. Farewell.(III,1)

i mergi cu bine.Sau, de va trebui s te mrii, mrit-te


c-un ntru; fiindc brbaii nelepi tiu prea bine ce
montri facei voi din ei. La mnstire, du-te; i ct mai
repede. Cu bine!

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in Reason,


how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how
express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in
apprehension how like a god the beauty of the world,
the paragon of animals! (II.2) - Hamlets famous
speech lead to great benefits for society as a whole.

Ce minunat lucrare e omul, ct de nobil i este


inteligena, ce fr de numr i sunt facultile,
alctuirile i micrile, ct de chibzuit i de admirabil e
n faptele sale, ct de asemenea unui nger n puterea sa
de nelegere, ct de asemenea unui zeu: frumuseea
lumii; pild a vieuitoarelor.

Terms explanation
Soliloquy - A formal device by which a dramatic character, alone on the stage, reveals feelings,
thoughts and motives in speech to the audience. The typical soliloquy is either a passionate speech giving vent to
the immediate pressure of feeling at a point of crisis, or a deliberative speech in which a particular dilemma or
choice of action is debated and resolved or, since one may lead naturally to the other, a combination of both. Thus,
the most effective soliloquies are introduced at moments of urgency for the character concerned, particularly,
when there is a reason for privacy and secrecy rather than public display of passion or reasoning. Sometimes,
however, the soliloquy may be spoken directly to the audience by characters who wish to take them into their
confidence. Clowns and villains are inclined to this mode of address: the clowns because they often stand on the
periphery of the plot and so invite the audience to join them in ridiculing situations in which they are not directly
involved, and the villains (like Shakespeares Richard III and Iago) because their awareness of the audiences
presence adds to their stature as clever rogues in charge of events.
When the audience is eavesdropping on a meditative or impassioned soliloquy, the dramatist has the
opportunity to internalize the presentation of character and to trace the dynamics of thought and feeling even
beyond the level of the characters own awareness. In Shakespeares subtlest soliloquies (those of Hamlet and
Macbeth, for instance) the audience is made to recognize ironies and ambiguities in what the character says, but of
which the character is unaware. Thus, the actor is given the opportunity not only for a virtuoso performance of a
set speech, but also for suggesting either the involuntary direction the characters thoughts and feelings move in,
or the painful effort to articulate what lies almost out of reach of the characters words. In both cases the language
and style of these great soliloquies do not describe the characters state of mind, they act it out.
Play-within-the-play - is a literary device or conceit (artistic effect) in which one play is told during the
action of another play. Mise en abyme is the French term for a similar literary device. This dramatic device was
probably first used by Thomas Kyd in The Spanish Tragedy around 1587, where the play is presented before an
audience of two of the characters, who comment upon the action.
William Shakespeare used this device notably in A Midsummer Nights Dream, Loves Labours Lost,
and Hamlet. In Hamlet the prince, Hamlet himself, asks some strolling players to perform the Murder of Gonzago.
The action and characters in The Murder mirror the murder of Hamlets father in the main action, and Prince
Hamlet writes additional material to emphasize this. Hamlet wishes to provoke the murderer, his uncle, and sums
this up by saying the plays the thing wherein Ill catch the conscience of the king. Hamlet calls this new play
The Mouse-trap.