Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

Identity in Shakespeare

Jay L. Halio



This paper surveys the problems of identity in a number of Shakespeare’s plays, such as The Taming of the Shrew, The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello. In these plays as in many others, Shakespeare explores the complexity of identity, not only through the use of disguise, as in the major comedies, but also through the problems of self-knowledge. The latter issue is prominent and explicit in King Lear when, for example, Lear asks “Who is it that can tell me who I am?” The opening words of Hamlet, “Who’s there?” introduce the problem from the outset, and much of the play is given over to characters trying to discover who the others in the play really are. Is the Ghost an honest ghost, or “a goblin damned?” Is Hamlet really mad or just putting on an “antic disposition” as he struggles to discover his proper course of action as his father’s avenger? Is Kate really a shrew, or just made to act like one by her family and others?


Shakespeare, William; Theatre; Identity


Copyright (c) 2012 Jay L. Halio

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