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Hamlet Soliloquy Critical Appreciation

By rugbydude1996 May 07, 2013 660 Words
Critical Appreciation

This particular speech has become more famous than most of Shakespeare’s soliloquies and is quoted on a daily basis. The meaning of the soliloquy is quite simple. Hamlet is on the verge of committing suicide and starts by questioning whether or not it is better to live or die. When Hamlet utters the pained question, “To be, or not to be: that is the question: / Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles” there is little doubt that he is thinking of death. After posing this question and wondering about the nature of the great sleep, Hamlet then goes on to list many sufferings men are prone to in the rough course of life, which unsurprisingly makes it seem as though he is moving towards death yet again. By the end of the soliloquy, however, he finally realises, “But that dread of something after death, / The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns—puzzles the will / And makes us rather bear those ills we have.” Although at this last moment Hamlet realizes that many chose life over death because of this inability to know the afterlife, the speech remains a deep contemplation about the nature and reasons for death. Hamlet ponders whether or not he wishes to exist, inquiring whether it's better to struggle through the trials of life or commit suicide. He declares death would be the better option if not for the unknown that death brings. It is this mystery that causes men to suffer through their mortal existence instead of ending their lives. Throughout this Hamlet soliloquy Shakespeare has used several literary devices which are extremely important in creating the profound effect which this piece clearly has on people. The question “To be or not be” is in fact an example of antithesis. This is a rhetorical device containing a contrast of ideas in a balanced parallel construction. The use of antithesis draws attention to the first line of the soliloquy and focuses the reader on one of the play's prominent themes. Another device which Shakespeare has deployed can be found in Lines 59, 60, and 61. Hamlet uses metonymy, a special type of metaphor that substitutes the name of one thing with something it is closely associated with. In these examples sleep represents death. This is particularly striking as sleep does in many ways take us into the ‘undiscover’d country’ of our minds. Sleep also seems to transcend time which is very relevant when talking about death. Another literary device used in this soliloquy is the metaphor. An example of a metaphor can be found when Hamlet is comparing slings and arrows and the whips and scorns of time to life's problems. The use of violent language, such as ‘whips’ and ‘arrows’ , is really effective in showing just how depressed Hamlet is about life. Another example of a metaphor is in line 79. This is when Hamlet uses a metaphor, calling death "the undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveller returns.” It is simple yet profound ideas such as these that really affect the audience and differentiate Shakespeare from other writers. There are two more metaphors in Lines 83-84. Suicide is referred to as the "the native hue of resolution," and the fear of death is referred to as the "pale cast of thought."Another device can be found in Lines 69-73 where Hamlet uses parallel structure. This is a rhetorical device comprised of phrases with similar grammatical structure, to create rhythm and draw attention to life's woes. Whilst some of the ideas and images in Hamlet’s soliloquy are thought provoking and profound they would undoubtedly have less of an impact if it wasn’t for Shakespeare’s perfect usage of certain literary devices. Shakespeare’s ability to combine both insight and literary genius is what makes him such a joy to read and to listen to.

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