Hamlet Soliloquy

Themes

The character of Prince Hamlet, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, displays many strong yet justified emotions. For instance, the “To be or Not To Be” soliloquy, perhaps one of the most well known quotes in the English language, Hamlet actually debates suicide. His despair, sorrow, anger, and inner peace are all justifiable emotions for this troubled character. Hamlet’s feeling of despair towards his life and to the world develops as the play moves on. In Hamlet’s first soliloquy he reveals that his despair has driven him to thoughts of suicide; “How weary (horrible) … His law ‘gainst self slaughter.” Likewise, when Hamlet talks to his friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Act 2, scene 2, Hamlet wishes they tell the King and Queen that he has “lost all mirth,” in this world so “foul and pestilent.” In his “To be or not to be” soliloquy, he expresses his despair through thoughts of suicide, suggesting that suicide is an easy way to end life’s conflicts. But luckily he concludes that the fear of an unknown afterlife is what keeps us living. All of Hamlet’s thoughts of despair can be understood when one looks at the horrible conflicts Hamlet goes through. Sorrow, perhaps the most evident emotion, is very well developed throughout the play. Initially, the only cause of Hamlet’s sorrow is his father’s death. However, after reading Act 1, scene 2, we see in Hamlet’s asides that another source of his melancholy is his mother’s hasty marriage to Claudius, the new king of Denmark. Further, when Queen Gertrude asks her son why his father’s death “seems” so important, he replies, “Seems, madam? Nay it is. I know not ‘seems’.” In addition, Shakespeare reveals another source of sadness; now Hamlet is alone, with the most loved character in his life, Ophelia, rejecting him. This cause is well brought out in Hamlet’s soliloquy in which he states; “Now I am alone. O, what a rouge and peasant slave am I!” Finally, when Hamlet discovers that Ophelia had died, new reasons for Hamlet’s extreme feelings of sorrow are added. In fact, his sorrow is so great that “Forty thousand brothers/Could not (with all their quantity and love) Make up my sum.” Thus, Hamlet’s well developed sadness, is reasonable throughout the play. Unfortunately, Hamlet’s thoughts of mourning are replaced by those of anger. Most readers of Hamlet agree, to some extent or another, that Hamlet is well justified in expressing anger. Perhaps the first incident of Hamlet’s true expression of anger is during his scene with the ghost in Act I. He states, “I with wings as swift as thought…sweep to my revenge.” Furthermore, in spite of his love for Ophelia, when he discovers she is not being truthful with him in Act III scene 1, he becomes outraged, dismissing his love for her. “I loved you once,” and then “loved you not.” Thus, “to a nunnery go.” He continues to abuse the ideas of marriage and womanhood to Ophelia in his feigned madness until he finally leaves. These attacks on marriage and womanhood should not have been directed to Ophelia, but rather perhaps to Queen Gertrude for her play acted out, with the purpose of determining Claudius’ guilt. When Hamlet’s doubt is dismissed, he reveals more thoughts of anger and outrage towards Claudius. “O heart, lose not thy nature, let me be cruel.” One of the most revealing scenes about Hamlet’s anger can be found where Claudius is praying to absolve his sins. Hamlet is given the chance to avenge “this foul and most unnatural murder” when he sees Claudius praying. Hamlet, being a Christian prince, cannot bring himself to kill Claudius while he is praying, as this would secure his place in heaven. Hamlet wants to before Claudius gets up, declaring he cannot pray; “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go” (Claudius, Act III, Scene 3). Had Hamlet known Claudius was unable to pray, then he could have had his revenge right then and there, instead of waiting until the end and taking everyone else with him. Most of the other characters would probably have acted much quicker than Hamlet if they were in his position. Imagine Polonius in the situation Hamlet found himself in. He would not procrastinate as much. It would have most likely been off with the head of the murderer. Any other character in the play would not have stayed as quiet as Hamlet does (confiding only in his best friend, and even keeping the truth from his mother until the end of Act III). Although not every one of them might have come to killing Claudius. Hamlet does not seem to do anything. Again, he thinks too much. Hamlet is self-conscious, while the majority of characters that surround him are not. This explains why he feels inhibited to act. Hamlet resembles a real person more than any discussion, and why the play remains so popular. Hamlet is one of the most interesting characters in English fiction because we can identify with him, and understand, although not always agree with his actions. Hamlet is also set apart by his elusiveness. Many of the characters in the play can be categorized within minutes of their introduction. I’m not calling them caricatures, but there is definitely a caricature-like side to some of them. The pompous Polonius and the deceitful and thick-headed Guildenstern and Rozencrantz come to mind. However, this does not hold true for some other characters, such as Laertes and Ophelia. The character of Hamlet refuses categorization. Interesting with regard to this is his love of theater. He is particularly interested in the idea that things may seem different from what they really are, just like the people that surround him. His mother is no longer his father’s wife, but his uncle’s; his “girlfriend” is no longer there for him, and Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are no longer his friends. Also, he is aware that he will have to disguise himself and his real motives and goals in order to attain them-this is why he fakes his madness. It is not until he picks up Yorick’s skull in the beginning of Act V that he finds out what is real and what is not. In the end, when the truth is revealed and everyone’s “masks” are removed, death is all that is to be found. Words
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