This chapter tests the strength of Hamlet's theory in some detail; it aims to emphasize the way that Hamlet, in his recollection of “proclaim'd” “malefactions,” makes the case for the theater's “true use” and “quality.” In Hamlet the performance of a play not only draws out the true circumstances of the past succession, but summons down an appropriately cataclysmic end. Crucially, then, Hamlet does not just vindicate acting, but holds up the theater as a cure for a troubled age. The chapter begins by remembering that for Hamlet the salubrity of performance is a lesson exacted from his own spectatorial torment. At the center of the play that has become a key text of enlightened modernity lies the “snappe” and bite of an antique past.
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