12 November 2012
Hamlet: The Dramatic Significance of Each Soliloquy
Shakespearean Tragedy defines a soliloquy as a speech made by a character when he is alone on stage. In Shakespearean dramas, a soliloquy is actually a poem with lyrics in which are highly emotional or philosophic in content and poetic expression. A soliloquy may serve several purposes, such as revealing the mood or character of the speaker, revealing his opinion on specific topics and issues, creating suspense, revealing motives, and advancing the plot. Hamlet, a tragedy written by William Shakespeare is the story about Prince Hamlet whose father, the late King of Denmark, is murdered by his brother, Hamlet’s uncle. The play revolves around Hamlet’s anger and his choices about how to avenge his father’s death. Throughout the play, Hamlet goes through seven soliloquies, all in which serve more than one dramatic significance. In each poetic speech, Hamlet reveals his character, creates an atmosphere, and advances the plot of the tragedy.
Initially, each soliloquy spoken by Hamlet communicates the personality that he holds. His characteristics are explored though the personal attacks geared towards himself for not acting on his morals, and the constant need that he has to confirm that his actions are correct. In Hamlet’s first soliloquy, he explains why it is that he is so upset about everything that has happened thus far. Originally, Hamlet refers to the world as being useless and meaningless to him, comparing it to a business that is showing no progression, “How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable/ Seem to me all the uses of this world!” (I.ii.133-134) Within this same soliloquy, Hamlet also expresses his feelings towards his mother’s speedy marriage to his uncle, the current King of Denmark. “O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason/ Would have mourn’d longer-married with my uncle,/ My father’s brother – but no more like my father/ Than I to Hercules.” (I.ii.150-152) Hamlet feels as though his mother has performed an incestuous marriage, and with someone of such low class as his uncle. Hamlet also says that although he feels this way about his mother’s decision, he will not say anything against her, “But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue” (I.ii.159). These words reveal Hamlet’s initial thoughts nearly two months after his father’s death, revealing not only his sadness for the loss of his father, but for the fact that his mother does not seem to care. Through them, he expresses his inner opinions, while maintaining a level of respect for his mother and uncle. During the whole of the play, Hamlet is faced with the task of avenging his father’s murder and more importantly, choosing whether death is more desirable than life. In Hamlet’s second soliloquy, he continues to show his indecisiveness and inability to say what is on his mind. In this speech, Hamlet reveals that he is a person who is not physically courageous, but mentally courageous. He says that in order to do what his father asks of him, he must remove all other distractions from his mind until his duties are fulfilled, “And thy commandment all alone shall live/ Within the book and volume of my brain” (I.v.102-103). This particular line shows Hamlet’s commitment to his family and the respect that he has for his father, and mother, which was displayed prior. Moreover, it is evident that Hamlet has many personal conflicts with himself. In his third and fourth soliloquy, he once again displays his lack of confidence and despite his desire for revenge; he cannot surpass the moral consequence of murder. Specifically, in his third soliloquy, Hamlet’s sense of himself comes from a condensed perception that he is a coward because he has not yet acted upon his father’s wishes. “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” (II.ii.535) Hamlet views himself as helpless and held back by his own conscience. Thus, he derives a plan to have his uncle admit...