Soliloquies of Hamlet Essay
Soliloquies of Hamlet
Hamlet’s first soliloquy prominently displays deep distress, even emotional fragility. He stands in the castle after having a long conversation with his mother and uncle-turned-step-father. This conversation has left him agitated and contributed to his unstable emotional state. The argument recounts his feelings toward his mother’s actions and the current state of his country. All of these things put him in a state of distress. The death of his father is a heavy blow, and his mother’s quick marriage, or her words, do nothing to ease his pain, but only exacerbates it. His mother’s lack of loyalty and quick submission to Claudius makes Hamlet believe that something is awry in the affairs of Denmark.
Hamlet idealized his parents and their relationship, and he bemoans the fact that although his father doted on his mother and was a good husband and father, she rushed into a relationship with another man, much less Hamlet’s uncle, a man that differs from his father in almost every respect. In his description of Denmark, he uses a metaphor to compare the country to “an unweeded garden/That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature/Possess it merely”s. To him, the country has become rotten, and will only lead to more infection.
The final two lines of Hamlet’s soliloqu/ are a conclusion and an analysis. He reacts to his mother’s indecency and lack of respect for his father, and decides her actions will not lead to anything but bad consequences. Hamlet concludes that there is nothing he can do. His mother has been disloyal to his father, which Hamlet takes as a sign of disloyalty to the ideal that he believed his family was, but she is the queen. His country is falling apart, but he has no real power to make any changes. Hamlet must hold his tongue, because he is expected to be a loyal son and fulfill his duties as the prince.
This soliloquy presents Hamlet’s emotions and psychological state. Hamlet feels emotional pain and is enraged, and he is directing his anger towards his mother and what he feels is her disloyalty. Hamlet desires the power to change the situation around him. As if for the first time in his life, things are going very wrong, and everyone is acting as if nothing is wrong. His powerlessness is beginning to drive him toward depression and desperation. Because of this pain, he is very agitated, and his speech is disjointed. He often interrupts his thoughts with an impassioned exclamation, as if his thoughts are too painful. Additionally, Hamlet is perceptive. At this point, he only knows that his father is dead.
However, his insight tells him to deem Denmark as rotten. Without knowing what has truly happened, he knows that something about his father’s death is not rightHamlet’s anger with his mother begins very early in the play, and continues into this soliloquy. While Hamlet is expected to play the part of the loyal son, he is rebelling against his mother and what is expected of him. He has expressed the desire to return to school and continue his lengthy education.
Claudius denies this request because most royal family members are told where to live and are kept in the same area; the king also wants to keep an eye on his new step- son. While the rest of the court has moved past the death of Hamlet’s father, he continues to wear black, defying his mother, who has asked him to take off his black clothing and make friends with Claudius, in a quiet form of rebellion. Hamlet is also hostile to his mother. After she asks him to remove his clothes of mourning, she says that death is common. After Hamlet agrees with her statement, she asks why it “seems” to be such a special case with Hamlet’s father. Hamlet becomes agitated at her use of “seems,” since it does not just appear particular, but is particular to Hamlet. He states that all of the signs of mourning – crying, black clothing, or a sad face – are not an act, but simply a byproduct of the very real, not seemed, pain that Hamlet is feeling. In these actions of rebellion, Hamlet is slowly taking the power he will need to make a difference.
Hamlet’s emotions continue to playa major role in his second soliloquyll. Hamlet is frustrated with himself for his lack of action. His father’s ghost came to the castle and continued to visit his former home until he spoke with Hamlet and Hamlet has not yet taken any action to avenge his death. Because he has none to blame but himself, his personal view of himself is very negative: he calls himself a coward, a rascal, and a man “unpregnant of my cause.”l2 In the second partJ3, Hamlet begins to form a plan.
He has thought of other ways to exact revenge, but none of them were ever effective. Hamlet plans to use a play, which reenacts his father’s death, to prove to himself that Claudius is guilty. Hamlet will watch his uncle and observe his facial expressions; Claudius will prove his own guilt. Hamlet concludes that he will use the play to catch Claudius. He wants to ensure that the story he has been told by the ghost is correct. Although Hamlet doubts whether the ghost is actually the ghost of his father, he is being driven by some kind of spirit. Even if the spirit is evil bent on bring harm to Hamlet, its pull on him is very strong. Hamlet’s only focus is catching his uncle and it has consumed him.
Hamlet is committed to the blood revenge the ghost charged him with. He feels guilty because he has not taken any action toward avenging his father’s death, as ifhe is betraying his father. The ghost implies that it will not rest until Claudius is dead; by not killing the king, Hamlet prevents his father from resting in peace. More pressure is placed on Hamlet by the ghost’s words, “If thou didst ever thy dear father love”. The ghost is telling Hamlet to prove his love for his father, but he must commit murder in order to prove this. In addition to the blood revenge, Hamlet feels it is his responsibility, as the prince, to right the wrongs in his country. However, Hamlet is conflicted by the actions he must take to correct the sins of the current king. Claudius killed his brother, the king. In order to find revenge, Hamlet must commit murder in the same way; he must kill his uncle, the king.
In his third soliloquyl4, Hamlet is contemplating one of the greatest enduring questions: is it better to live and suffer through all of life’s hardships, or die and face the unknown consequences of the afterlife? He thinks of the many things that are supposed to emich a long life, but ultimately make living painful and difficult to endure: “the whips and scorns of time,! Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,lThe pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,lThe insolence of office … ,, 15
He also weighs the benefits and the disadvantages of each, but he never concludes as to which is better. However, he does conclude that humans suffer through out of fear of what comes after the last breath. He adds that this fear makes people cowards, undermining the power of decisiveness and action with thought and fear. Hamlet often restates ideas using different words. This allows the reader to see him think, to see the process of his brain as his ideas and thoughts develop.
This is a reflection on Hamlet’s current state. He states that actions are often stalled and determination is taken away by over-thinking: “conscience does make cowards [of us all],!And thus the native hue ofresolutioniIs sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,! And enterprises of great pitch and moment.lWith this regard their currents turn awry,! And lose the name of action.,,16 He has a task to complete – avenge his father’s death – but his thoughts and fears of have made him pause and prevented from taking the actions necessary to accomplish this.
Hamlet is deeply reflective. He is troubled that he has let his fears of death take away his resolve. He knows that he must commit murder, but the fears the consequences, and that slows his actions. While he still fears what he must do, he has begun to accept it. This is evident in the fluidity of his speech. His previous soliloquies feature speech broken by his thoughts and outbursts. In this soliloquy, Hamlet uses complete thoughts, filled with intelligent insights and coming to educated conclusions. His thoughts cut through the situation and answer the questions which he has raised.
In his final soliloquy 17, Hamlet first questions the purpose of man, concluding that humans are not meant to simply pass through life, but to change and affect those around them, leaving an imprint. Without higher thought and the ability to reason, man would simply be a common beast, only eating and sleeping, never achieving. Hamlet states that God would not have given man the ability to think and reason if He did not intend for them to use these skills. With this thought, Hamlet questions why he is still alive. He has not yet exacted the revenge; he is not changing anything and simply passing through each day. These thoughts come as he watches large armies approach his country.
He knows that the men who are marching towards him will most likely all die, and he questions whether their deaths are worth whatever end will be reached. Hamlet continues to be unhappy with the situation he finds himself in. He is a young prince, who was visited by his murdered father’s ghost and charged with retaliating against this crime. The king is a murderer, and Hamlet’s mother has shown no loyalty, instantly falling into what Hamlet considers the incestuous arms of a man who is nothing compared to her first husband. Now, Hamlet watches as a foreign army passes through Denmark. He is ashamed that he lives as an inactive man, while thousands of men are soon to die. He concludes saying the he will find revenge, or he is worth nothing as a man.
Hamlet is resolved. He is still disgusted with the fact that he has not acted on the charge of revenge, but the idea of oncoming war spurs him to act on his bloody thoughts. All doubts he had about what he must do are gone. He knows he must kill his uncle, committing the same sin he is avenging. However, this thought no longer strikes fear within him; he is no longer concerned with the consequences of his actions
http://www.book-review-circle.com/Hamlet-William-Shakespeare.html Hamlet conforms to the Aristotelian forms of tragedy. It is well constructed and bides to Aristotle’s definitions regarding a complete dramatic action which arouse pity and fear inducing Catharsis. :
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right. –
The play is based on the theatre of illusion where the audience experiences the predicaments of the characters vicariously By identifying emotionally and psychologically, we are drawn closer to the characters and are aroused by their terror to pity and fear (pathos) to a state of Catharsis, releasing our tension, soothing and purging our souls. This is ephemeral; there are no lasting consequences.
The plot is linear, progressing from a beginning, a middle and an end with various techniques of wholeness, unity and purpose. It reaffirms a rational, ordered universe, “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we may”
The characters are appropriate, realistic and plausible; the hero from a good family, going through a crisis with a reversal of fortune. Hamlet is an Aristotelian model of a classical drama – there is an overall logic to the action, and the plot has a discernible shape: a beginning, middle, and end. By the conclusion of the play, in other words, through the actions of the participants, something has been dealt with, resolved. There is an emphasis on structure, causation, unity, cohesion….
Suffering is depicted as ennobling. At the end, order is restored, god is on his throne and all is right with the world.
O That This Too Solid Flesh Would Melt” Soliloquy Translation: He wished that his body would just melt, turn to water and become like the dew. Or that the Almighty hadn’t made a law forbidding suicide. Oh God! God! How weary, stale, flat and useless everything about life seemed! He moaned. It was terrible. The whole world was like an unweeded garden that had gone to seed – only ugly disgusting things thrived. He couldn’t believe what had happened. Only two months dead; no, not even two. Such an excellent king he had been, compared with this one. It was like Hyperion, the sun god, compared to a lecherous satyr. He’d been so loving to his mother that he wouldn’t even allow the gentle breeze of heaven to blow too roughly on her face. He lifted his hands and blocked his ears as though to shut his father’s memory out.
She had loved him so much, adored him, as though the more she had of him the more she wanted him. And yet, within a month! He couldn’t bear to think about it. Women were so inconsistent! Only a month, even before the shoes with which she had followed his father’s body were old, all flowing with tears, she, even she… Oh God! Even an animal that doesn’t have reason, would have mourned longer – ..she married his uncle! His father’s brother, but no more like his father than he was like Hercules. Even before the salt of those hypocritical tears had left her swollen eyes, she married. Oh, most wicked speed, to hurry so enthusiastically to incestuous sheets! It couldn’t end happily. But he would just have to break his heart, because he had to hold his tongue “O, What A Rogue And Peasant Slave Am I” Soliloquy Translation: What a deceitful fellow – a rogue, a peasant slave – he was!
It was monstrous that this actor had only to imagine grief for his face to go pale and his eyes tostream. In a fiction! A made-up script of passion! He was able to effect a broken voice, a desperation in his body language, and everything he felt necessary to the situation he was imagining. And it was all for nothing! For Hecuba, dead for a thousand years! What was Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, that he should weep for her? What would that actor do if he had the motive and the reason for grief that he had? He would flood the stage with tears and split the ears of the audience with the language he would find, terrifying the innocent and making the guilty mad. He would bewilder the ignorant and amaze the eyes and ears of all. He stood up and paced. He was the opposite of the actor: he was a rascal, the mettle of whose character had become tarnished and dull.
He was shrinking away from his duty like a John-o-dreams, slow to translate his purpose into action, unable to say a word, no, not even on behalf of a king who had been robbed of his property and most precious life. Was he a coward? The victim of bullies? Would he let them call him names, strike him on his head, pull his beard out and throw it in his face, assassinate his character? Ha! God, yes, he would just take it because it was impossible that he could be anything but pigeon-livered , lacking the gall to summon up enough bitterness to do anything about his father’s murder. Otherwise he would have fed this slave’s intestines to the local kites. The villain! Bloody, filthy villain! Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, cruel villain! Oh vengeance! His heart was beating fast and he was almost breathless from the thoughts that were plaguing him.
He sat down again. What an ass he was! What a brave man! That he, the son of a beloved father who had been murdered, with every reason between heaven and hell to act, should unburden his heart with words and descend to cursing, like a whore – a servant. Curse it! He sat for a moment and an idea that had occurred to him while talking to the actors began to take shape. He had to concentrate on it now. Hmmm. He had heard about guilty people who, while watching a play, had been so affected by the contents of the scene, that they had confessed to their crimes, because murder will always find a way to proclaim itself, even though it has no voice of its own.
The idea crystallized. He would get the players to perform something like the murder of his father in front of his uncle. He would watch his uncle’s reactions. He would probe his very thoughts. If his uncle so much as flinched he would know what to do. The ghost may have been the devil for all he knew, and the devil had the power to take on a pleasing shape. Yes, and perhaps the devil was taking advantage of his weakness and his grief to damn him. He was therefore going to get proof. The play was the thing in which he would catch the conscience of the king.
“To Be Or Not To Be” Soliloquy Translation:
The question for him was whether to continue to exist or not – whether it was more noble to suffer the slings and arrows of an unbearable situation, or to declare war on the sea of troubles that afflict one, and by opposing them, end them. To die. He pondered the prospect. To sleep – as simple as that. And with that sleep we end the heartaches and the thousand natural miseries that human beings have to endure. It’s an end that we would all ardently hope for. To die. To sleep. To sleep. Perhaps to dream. Yes, that was the problem, because in that sleep of death the dreams we might have when we have shed this mortal body must make us pause. That’s the consideration that creates the calamity of such a long life. Because, who would tolerate the whips and scorns of time; the tyrant’s offences against us; the contempt of proud men; the pain of rejected love; the insolence of officious authority; and the advantage that the worst people take of the best, when one could just release oneself with a naked blade?
Who would carry this load, sweating and grunting under the burden of a weary life if it weren’t for the dread of the after life – that unexplored country from whose border no traveler returns? That’s the thing that confounds us and makes us put up with those evils that we know rather than hurry to others that we don’t know about. So thinking about it makes cowards of us all, and it follows that the first impulse to end our life is obscured by reflecting on it. And great and important plans are diluted to the point where we don’t do anything. “Now Might I Do It Pat” Soliloquy Translation:
As Hamlet passed the chapel on his way to his mother’s room he saw the light in the chapel. He paused and stood silently at the door. He saw the still form of his uncle kneeling before the altar. He drew his sword and tiptoed into the chapel and stood at the back. He could do it, right now, easily, while he was praying. And he would. Right now. He took a step forward then stopped. And so he would go to heaven, and what kind of revenge would that be? That was something to think about. A villain kills his father; and for that his son sends that villain to heaven. Oh, that would be a service he was giving that villain, not revenge. He killed his father most grossly, full of unresolved sins himself, with all his crimes in blossom, like the flowers of May. And no-one knew how his father’s audit stood in heaven. As far he knew it stood seriously. So would he be revenged if he took his uncle while he was purging his soul, when he was fit and ready for his death? No!
He put his sword back. He would find a more suitable occasion, when he was drunk, or asleep, or in a rage, or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed, or gambling, swearing, or some other act that had no taste of salvation in it. Then he would trip him so that his heels would kick out at heaven. His soul would then be damned as black as the hell it was destined for. His mother was waiting, but this delay would only prolong his uncle’s last sickly days. He turned and went out quietly “How All Occasions Do Inform Against Me” Soliloquy Translation: How the examples provided by everything around him denounced him and reminded him of his inability to sweep to his revenge! What was a man if his most profitable employment was to eat and sleep? Nothing more than an animal. He who made us with that vast capacity for understanding, that ability to reflect on experience and learn from it, didn’t give us that god-like reason just to let it go mouldy from disuse.
He didn’t know what it was that was stopping him. Whether it was animal-like inability to understand or some cowardly nit-picking – thinking too precisely about it, analysing his thoughts, which were one quarter wisdom and always three quarters cowardice. He didn’t know why he was saying, ‘this still has to be done’ since he had the reason and the desire and the strength and the means to do it. Examples as weighty as the earth keep urging him. Look at the way this inexperienced young prince, puffed with divine ambition and scorning everything that fortune, death and danger could throw at him, was leading this huge expensive army on a campaign to gain a piece of land that was nothing more than an eggshell.
True greatness wasn’t a matter of rushing into action for any trivial cause but when honour was at stake it was noble to act, no matter how trivial the cause was. Where did he stand, then, his father murdered, his mother stained – two huge incentives – and not do anything? It was to his shame that he was watching the imminent death of twenty thousand men who were going to their deaths as easily as one would go to bed, for almost no reason, fighting for a plot of land that was so small that they wouldn’t even fit on it, that wasn’t even big enough for the fallen to be buried on. Oh, from now on his thoughts would be bloody, or not worth having!
Written during the first part of the seventeenth century (probably in 1600 or 1601), Hamlet was probably first performed in July 1602. It was first published in printed form in 1603 and appeared in an enlarged edition in 1604. As was common practice during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Shakespeare borrowed for his plays ideas and stories from earlier literary works. He could have taken the story of Hamlet from several possible sources, including a twelfth-century Latin history of Denmark compiled by Saxo Grammaticus and a prose work by the French writer François de Belleforest, entitled Histoires Tragiques. The raw material that Shakespeare appropriated in writing Hamlet is the story of a Danish prince whose uncle murders the prince’s father, marries his mother, and claims the throne. The prince pretends to be feeble-minded to throw his uncle off guard, then manages to kill his uncle in revenge.
Shakespeare changed the emphasis of this story entirely, making his Hamlet a philosophically minded prince who delays taking action because his knowledge of his uncle’s crime is so uncertain. Shakespeare went far beyond making uncertainty a personal quirk of Hamlet’s, introducing a number of important ambiguities into the play that even the audience cannot resolve with certainty. For instance, whether Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, shares in Claudius’s guilt; whether Hamlet continues to love Ophelia even as he spurns her, in Act III; whether Ophelia’s death is suicide or accident; whether the ghost offers reliable knowledge, or seeks to deceive and tempt Hamlet; and, perhaps most importantly, whether Hamlet would be morally justified in taking revenge on his uncle. Shakespeare makes it clear that the stakes riding on some of these questions are enormous—the actions of these characters bring disaster upon an entire kingdom.
At the play’s end it is not even clear whether justice has been achieved. By modifying his source materials in this way, Shakespeare was able to take an unremarkable revenge story and make it resonate with the most fundamental themes and problems of the Renaissance. The Renaissance is a vast cultural phenomenon that began in fifteenth-century Italy with the recovery of classical Greek and Latin texts that had been lost to the Middle Ages. The scholars who enthusiastically rediscovered these classical texts were motivated by an educational and political ideal called (in Latin) humanitas—the idea that all of the capabilities and virtues peculiar to human beings should be studied and developed to their furthest extent. Renaissance humanism, as this movement is now called, generated a new interest in human experience, and also an enormous optimism about the potential scope of human understanding. Hamlet’s famous speech in Act II, “What a piece of work is a man!
How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god—the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!” (II.ii.293–297) is directly based upon one of the major texts of the Italian humanists, Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man. For the humanists, the purpose of cultivating reason was to lead to a better understanding of how to act, and their fondest hope was that the coordination of action and understanding would lead to great benefits for society as a whole. As the Renaissance spread to other countries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, a more skeptical strain of humanism developed, stressing the limitations of human understanding.
For example, the sixteenth-century French humanist, Michel de Montaigne, was no less interested in studying human experiences than the earlier humanists were, but he maintained that the world of experience was a world of appearances, and that human beings could never hope to see past those appearances into the “realities” that lie behind them. This is the world in which Shakespeare places his characters. Hamlet is faced with the difficult task of correcting an injustice that he can never have sufficient knowledge of—a dilemma that is by no means unique, or even uncommon.
And while Hamlet is fond of pointing out questions that cannot be answered because they concern supernatural and metaphysical matters, the play as a whole chiefly demonstrates the difficulty of knowing the truth about other people—their guilt or innocence, their motivations, their feelings, their relative states of sanity or insanity. The world of other people is a world of appearances, andHamlet is, fundamentally, a play about the difficulty of living in that world.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 28 September 2016
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