Soliloquies in Hamlet

Topics: Hamlet, William Shakespeare, Soliloquy Pages: 15 (4695 words) Published: November 11, 2008

Shakespeare's Hamlet, simply stated, is a story in which the main character, young Hamlet, is on a mission to avenge the death of his father, which he realizes was caused by the hand of his uncle. The majority of the play is centered around Hamlet’s vengeance and the pain and suffering caused by it. From the moment Hamlet learns of his father’s untimely demise he puts on an air of insanity as a clever device used to secretly execute his revenge. This plan works great in the story, but unfortunately it creates a few clouds of doubt for the reader when trying to decipher Hamlet’s true feelings from those he is feigning.

When Shakespeare crafted this masterpiece he certainly understood that Hamlet’s ruse would evoke some confusion in the reader, so as a remedy he included a few important soliloquies that are able to cast away some of the clouds and reveal Hamlet’s inner conflicts and introspective attitude. The purpose of a soliloquy is to outline the thoughts and feelings of a certain character at a point in the play. It reveals the innermost beliefs of the character and offers an unbiased perspective, as it is merely the character talking to the audience, though not directly, and most often not to any other characters who may cause the character to withhold their true opinions. Only through the use of soliloquy is the reader is able to delve into Hamlet's hidden psyche and fully understand the feelings and motives behind Hamlet’s masked intent. Each of Hamlet’s soliloquies included in the play is slightly different, but at the same time are quite similar in that they all greatly enhance the play through wonderful use of vivid imagery and language.

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt (1.2.131-61).

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, (135)
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two: (140)
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him, (145)
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month --
Let me not think on't -- Frailty, thy name is woman! --
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body, (150)
Like Niobe, all tears: -- why she, even she --
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: within a month: (155)
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good: (160)
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.


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 of rot and corruption, as seen in the basic usage of words like "rank" (138) and "gross" (138), and in the metaphor associating the world with "an unweeded garden" (137). The nature...

References: Newell, Alex, (1991) The Soliloquies of Hamlet. London: Associated Unversity Presses
Bealey, Betty,(1963) William Shakespeare Hamlet., ed. Toronto: Academic Press Canada
Edwards, Philip, (1985) William Shakespeare Hamlet., ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP
Jenkins, Harold, (1982)William Shakespeare Hamlet, ed. London: Methuen
Kittredge, George, (1967)William Shakespeare Hamlet, Toronto: Ginn and Company
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