All-College Writing Contest


2014 All College Writing Contest

Document Type


Date of Award

Fall 2014

Author Comments

Elsinore’s a Stage, Too – Analyzing Shakespeare’s Hamlet through Erving Goffman’s Sociological Theories was my final paper for the History of Drama I class. We were assigned to choose a Shakespeare play and analyze it in order to discover universal themes that still exist in the contemporary world. The decision of choosing Hamlet was an easy one – I have always been fascinated by the play’s complex protagonist, rich dialogue, and its plot that is full of absurd situations and misunderstandings. One of the most heated debates that scholars have been engaged in since the publication of the tragedy is whether Hamlet is actually mad, or simply putting on a successful performance. When reading more on this specific question, I was reminded of Erving Goffman’s sociological theory of our everyday life being a performance itself. His main works focus on the ways in which human beings control their relationships by changing their behavior and self-presentation based on continuously changing social environments. I soon realized that Goffman’s ideas are very present in Hamlet, even beyond the element of the protagonist’s madness. The play has a large variety of scenes which demonstrate the sociological phenomena addressed by Goffman, and in this paper I chose some of his fundamental ideas and aimed to approach the classical play through them. The writing and research process did not only help me to understand Hamlet’s characters and dramaturgical structure on a deeper level, but also opened my eyes to Shakespeare’s phenomenal understanding of the multifaceted nature of mundane human interaction.

Faculty Advisor

Richard Pettengill



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