This quotation, Hamlet’s first important soliloquy, occurs in Act I, scene ii (129–158). Hamlet speaks these lines after enduring the unpleasant scene at Claudius and Gertrude’s court, then being asked by his mother and stepfather not to return to his studies at Wittenberg but to remain in Denmark, presumably against his wishes. Here, Hamlet thinks for the first time about suicide (desiring his flesh to “melt,” and wishing that God had not made “self-slaughter” a sin), saying that the world is “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.” In other words, suicide seems like a desirable alternative to life in a painful world, but Hamlet feels that the option of suicide is closed to him because it is forbidden by religion. Hamlet then goes on to describe the causes of his pain, specifically his intense disgust at his mother’s marriage to Claudius. He describes the haste of their marriage, noting that the shoes his mother wore to his father’s funeral were not worn out before her marriage to Claudius. He compares Claudius to his father (his father was “so excellent a king” while Claudius is a bestial “satyr”). As he runs through his description of their marriage, he touches upon the important motifs of misogyny, crying, “Frailty, thy name is woman”; incest, commenting that his mother moved “[w]ith such dexterity to incestuous sheets”; and the ominous omen the marriage represents for Denmark, that “[i]t is not nor it cannot come to good.” Each of these motifs recurs throughout the play.
Hamlet's passionate first soliloquy provides a striking contrast to the controlled and artificial dialogue that he must exchange with Claudius and his court. The primary function of the soliloquy is to reveal to the audience Hamlet's profound melancholia and the reasons for his despair. In a disjointed outpouring of disgust, anger, sorrow, and grief, Hamlet explains that, without exception, everything in his world is either futile or contemptible. His speech is saturated with suggestions...
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