VOSKANYAN Tigran TES1
Hamlet’s second soliloquy : oral presentation
In the last scene of act I Hamlet is told by the ghost that his father has been murdered by Uncle Claudius, the brother of the deceased king. Hamlet once mournful and grim turns revengeful, he promises the ghost to “sweep” to revenge. But he is tormented with doubts. The ghost has taken its toll on Hamlet but has not been convincing enough, he cannot fully trust it given that it might also be an evil spirit willing to make him change course, misleading him to murder an innocent man and be “damned” as Hamlet puts it in his words full of fear and anxiety. For such reasons Hamlet conceives a plan, he is going to wear a mask of madness, or put on ‘the antic disposition’, which Hamlet considers will make things easier for him: Hamlet under the mask of madness intends getting people talk more freely in his presence and thus he might easily find the truth about his uncle. But, far from working his plan turns to be counterproductive. Soon, Hamlet draws even more attention to himself, the royal court is intrigued by his strange behavior and King Claudius summons Hamlet’s school friends Rosencratz and Guildernstern asking them to go spy on him. Hamlet is suspicious of his own friends and soon conceives a new idea to trap his uncle: the reenactment of his father’s murder under the cover of a play called “The Murder of Gonzago”. In this particular soliloquy, which comes right after, the audience is waiting to see a more determined Hamlet ready to avenge his father’s murder: indeed it has been a while since Hamlet promised to act. Instead we are presented with an even more confused character, not only uncertain of the world surrounding him but also himself. Shakespeare through the soliloquy paints Hamlet’s character. Thus, the audience finds out that Hamlet is self-loathing
Hamlet’s opening words: expression of self-disgust: “ O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!”, Hamlet’s self-critic is obvious here, he reduces himself to the state of a slave. The Prince must really be mad at himself. Shakespeare’s choice of the word “slave” might signify Hamlet’s inaction, passiveness, just like a slave is chained to his master and incapable of acting against his will, so is Hamlet attached to the shackles of thought and meditation, which impede him from acting, acting freely. -
The first player’s acting has left Hamlet with a sense of amazement. How come the actor can get himself to cry for something that is imaginary, for “Hecuba”, dead thousands of years ago and Hamlet, who has real, true reasons to cry proves unable to express his anguish over the loss of his father and the incestuous remarriage of his mother: “can say nothing, - no not for a king”. -
Hamlet suggests here that his inability to express himself is like a betrayal, for Hamlet seems to have forsaken his duty of avenging his father. He calls himself “A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause”. The choice of the adjective “dull” reminds the audience of what the ghost told him in Act I. If Hamlet didn’t take revenge the ghost said that he would be “duller than the fat weed/ That roots itself on Lethe wharf”. Hamlet seems to be accusing himself of not having the player's passion, of not hating Claudius strongly enough, of not loving his father strongly enough. Hamlet is mad at himself not because he hasn’t killed Claudius but because he hasn’t said anything. So Hamlet instead of plotting against Claudius dwells on himself. Another character trait is being developed by Shakespeare, one that the audience is very much familiar with since Hamlet’s first soliloquy where he extrapolates his own grief over Denmark, the world in general. It is Hamlet’s egocentric side. -
Note the abounding number of personal pronouns (I, my, me) used by Hamlet in the soliloquy. It is as if the world revolved around him. When Hamlet shows the actor’s passion and enthusiasm about his role it is only...
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