The thirty chapters of this innovative international study are all devoted to the topic of the play within the play. The authors explore the wide range of aesthetic, literary-theoretical and philosophical issues associated with this rhetorical device, not only in terms of its original meta-theatrical setting - from the baroque idea of a theatrum mundi onward to contemporary examples of postmodern self-referential dramaturgy - but also with regard to a variety of different generic applications, e.g. in narrative fiction, musical theatre and film. The authors, internationally recognized specialists in their respective fields, draw on recent debates in such areas as postcolonial studies, game and systems theories, media and performance studies, to analyze the specific qualities and characteristics of the play within the play: as ultimate affirmation of the 'self' (the 'Hamlet paradigm'), as a self-reflective agency of meta-theatrical discourse, and as a vehicle of intermedial and intercultural transformation. The challenging study, with its underlying premise of play as a key feature of cultural anthropology and human creativity, breaks new ground by placing the play within the play at the centre of a number of intersecting scholarly discourses on areas of topical concern to scholars in the humanities.