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|GR: Images of clothes and "suits"
Written by Laraine
(5/27/2003 9:03 p.m.)
One of the biggest problems all of the characters have in Hamlet is trying to figure out who is putting on an act and who is genuinely feeling something.
Hamlet is trying to find out if the ghost is trustworthy, Claudius, Polonius, and Gertrude are all trying to figure out whether Hamlet is really mad or just playing at it, Ophelia tries to figure out if Hamlet is honest about telling her he loves her, and so on.
The images of clothing (as in "the trappings and the suits") are part and parcel of this sense of too often thwarted discovery of whether someone is acting or being sincere. Here are some examples that I found:
Hamlet is wearing black far too long for Gertrude to be content: he is acting as if he is not happy, and she wants everyone to let Claudius set the tone and forget King Hamlet as fast as possible.
Hamlet complains that his mother married Claudius before the shoes she wore to the funeral were old: apparently, the "like Niobe, all tears" was just an act, for show, as it were.
The ghost is clad in armor, as if he is trying to fight against someone or something, and everyone is confused about what it might be. Hamlet is told why, but he doesn't tell anyone else (except Horatio, at some point off stage).
Hamlet goes to Ophelia's chamber wearing the "costume" of a madman, as if he is trying to send the message to Polonius and Claudius that he's crazy.
Hamlet questions Rosencrantz and Gildenstern about where they "live" in her garments (that gets off color fast), and it seems to me that what he's really asking them is whether they came to "deal justly with him" or whether they are just acting a part.
The gravedigger scene is infused with ideas about flesh being something like a suit we wear until we are actually forced to be our true selves when we die.
Osric is all about correct garb and correct posturing: he's drawn as if he is nothing but costume with no actual personhood underneath.
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