The tone of
They All Want to Play Hamlet by Carl Sandburg shifts from critical to empathetic yet disdainful. The poem opens up with a series of statements that are critical of actors; the statements suggest that because actors have not experienced what Hamlet had, they are incompetent to play the role. “They have not exactly seen their fathers killed..” suggest that in order to play Hamlet, one must know how he felt. Halfway through the poem by acknowledging why “they all want to play Hamlet,” the tone shifts to empathetic because the poet can relate to actors who seek accolades and recognition, but not to the situation. Sandburg can relate to wanting accolades because as a writer he seeks them as well. However the tone is very disdainful toward actors who only “play”, “act” or repeat words already written whereas a poet like himself creates words. The author understands that the part is seen as nothing more than a contest or challenge for them to gain accolades and even goes as far to say “they all want to play Hamlet because it is sad like all actors are sad.” The poet addresses two meaning to the word “sad”. In doing so, the actor’s feelings and the narrator’s opinion is address through the use of one word.
The diction of the poem enhances the tone; many of the words have hidden connotations.
When Sandburg says “all actors are sad”, it is addressing the feeling of actual sadness, but also interpreted as a condescending remark for those wanting to experience Hamlet without being able to personally relate with the character being portrayed. Throughout the course of the poem, the words “not” or “nor” appear quite frequently. It is through this repetition that the reader can grasp why the poet feels that actors are unqualified to play Hamlet. Sandburg is praising
Shakespeare and being critical of those who try to replicate him; he shows respect from one writer to another.
is made out to be a masterpiece of sadness that none could ever truly
replicate or relate. This is supported with they all want to “play” Hamlet which suggest not only are they acting the part of Hamlet, but they must play the scene in their head to try and replicate the emotions felt in that scene. Above all, it points out that once the part comes to a conclusion that imitation of the horrid pain is gone as well as their spotlight of fame, “they” must now watch as some other theatrical performer takes their place. It’s a never ending cycle of people seeking accolades from others works, which is why the narrator describes all actors are "sad".
The details in the story can be described as strong word imagery. The use of this allows the reader to get a glimpse of the atrocities Hamlet endured in the play and why this sadness can never be fully recreated. “The spinning circles of singing spiders” references to the internal battle of confusion and despair Hamlet faces in the play that aspires the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy; however, the purpose of lines 26 is to give a list of all Hamlet faced throughout the play. For example, by the repetition of flowers in “
Not exactly this have they got at nor the meaning of flowersO flowers, flowers…”, a reference to death of others is emphasized to point out that the character Hamlet does suffer much loss and that actors only want to “say over slow and say over slow wise, keen, beautiful words” because they find them poetic and full of passion.
This passion in turn is something that “calls and calls to their blood” , but the narrator is empathetic towards actors whose passion is to repeat famous lines for accolades instead of creating their own.
Through a limited third person point of view, the narrator is able to convey his thoughts and feelings of actors by generally classifying them into the same group with remarks like
“they”. A few of actors could have possibly experienced “their mothers in a