The speech itself has played two important roles independent of the play. It has been analyzed as an historical document for clues about the nature of early modern acting practices and it has also been used as a contemporary guide to the performance of Shakespearean drama.
While there is some justification for each of these approaches, they should be distinguished from other, far less valid assertions: on the one hand, that Hamlet ventriloquizes the opinions of Shakespeare on the art of acting in a straight-forward and unproblematic way; on the other, that the speech offers a proto-Stanislavskian view of the art of acting. The first elides the difference between author and character, while the second ignores the historical specificity of the discourses and meanings attached to theatrical performance.
'Speak the Speech, I Pray You ...' Taking a Line on Shakespeare: The Myth of the Iambic Pentameter: Keith Davidson Queries Actor Ben Crystal's Advice to the Players (2008)-Given Extensive Coverage in NATE Classroom (Issue 06, Autumn 2008)
Feb 01, 2009; The iambic pentameter seems to worry people, something they've been told about at school. It was to a worried question from the...