One of the key reasons the idea of alternatives is so integral to both plays is because the audience themselves is also affected by the multiplicity of interpretation. They have an near omniscient view of events and this gives them the ability to place events in context with on another, and thus appreciate the dramatic irony of the scenes. They can see the loathing Malvolio invokes in the other staff and that, for all his airs and graces, he is just a servant. In the end it this vunerability- the lack of a multiplicitous view- that gets him locked alone in the darkened room that metaphorically represents his ignorance; he is ‘in the dark’ so to speak.  They would also recognise the multiplicity of Hamlet’s genre as: ‘the Senecan [Tragedy] conventions [which were vastly influencial in Elizabeathean drama] are often transformed in Hamlet.’  These transformations of established characters is especially apparent in Act3 Sc2, where Hamlet’s nonsensical wordplay seems more concurrent with a jester or fool than the hero of Tragedy, who is usually either:  ‘ the just and upright servant of God’ such as Kyd’s Hieronimo or imbued with  the ‘sense of power and magnificence’  seen in Marlowe’s reflective conqueror Tamburlaine.

Although multiplicity is an undeniable presence in both texts, it is one that is often neglected and forgotten when discussing them. What such readings fail to see is how vital this multiplicity is to the essence of the play. Rather aptly, its effect are usually hidden, but they often act as a catalyst for other major events. Claudius may have been highly suspicious of Hamlet after watching The Mouse Trap, but he had no appropriate way to disposie of him up until the end of Act3, SC2. At this point Hamlet’s use of multiplicitous ambiguity in his diction enables Claudius to  justify his change in judgement by concluding that Hamlet is not hiding a secret but is instead consumed with ‘madness’ and ‘lunacies’ and ship him off safely abroad. If the sombre and dour Malvolio had been present, would Olivia have made the rash decision to arrange hasty marriage to Viola/Sebastian?  As such it is clear, in both of the scenes examined in this essay that the multiplicitous nature of language plays a prominent part in creating the supporting framework that underpins and elevates the plot. Without this multiplicity, it is doubtful whether the deception and cruel irony of both plays would reach such lofty heights.

February 6, 2018


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