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Hamlet 2 Essay, Research Paper

“To be or not to be,” (quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet) probably the most well known line in the English language, which comes from one of the may soliloquy’s in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Though it is not from an important soliloquy in the play, this line has been imbedded in the minds of many. Through out the play Hamlet recites many soliloquies, two of which come out at the beginning of the play giving the reader an insight on the play’s plot (what’s to come) and Shakespeare’s writing style. The first two soliloquies set the stage for the character of Hamlet, and how is feelings and character progress.

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. Therefore, Hamlet’s first soliloquy (act 1, scene 2) is essential to the play as it highlights his inner conflict caused by the events of the play. It reveals his true feelings and brings out many important characteristics such as sorrow, anger and melancholy. His feelings are melancholy because in the past two months Hamlet’s father has been killed, his mother has married his uncle Claudius and because of these events feels like committing suicide. In the soliloquy, we learn about Hamlet’s adoration of his father and how this serves to emphasize the despite that he shows towards his mother. Hamlet communicates that his father was a divine, almost ‘godlike’ character, “so excellent a king”, who was “so loving to my mother”. He also illustrates the contrast between the new king and the old and as such his mother’s choice, “Hyperion to a satyr”. This example of extreme contrast increases the importance of Hamlet’s father. The troubled nature of Hamlet’s mind is also communicated well by the imagery that is used. At the start, Hamlet says that he wants his “too solid flesh” to “…melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew”. This goes alongside the later lines, “How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world”, where he builds up adjectives, one after the other, serves to highlight just how difficult it is for Hamlet to live in the world. It is as if Hamlet cannot deal with or, indeed, stand the physical side of life anymore. He needs to get rid of his body to be able to deal with the inner conflict going on in his head. These lines and the image that is conveyed serve to reveal not only the tragic nature of his problem, but highlight his allusions to suicide. Another good example of imagery in the soliloquy is that of the “unweeded garden that grows to seed; things rank…in nature”. This image represents the something that is “…rotten in the state of Denmark”. It is a comparison for the state of his kingdom, as it used to be nice but now is “gross”. Therefore, this soliloquy is successful in communicating the emotional state of Hamlet to the audience because it reveals the true nature of Hamlet’s feelings; not only through the wording but through the imagery and language as well. It successfully shows how the character of Hamlet is first perceived.

We now have seen what Hamlet was like in during his first soliloquy. His second soliloquy is in the longest scene of the play. In this scene Claudius has summoned for Rosencratz and Guildenstern to find out what is making Hamlet act so mad. Meanwhile Polonius (Claudius’s advisor), thinks he has found the reason for Hamlet’s madness, he believes it is because the young prince is still in love with his daughter Ophelia. In the second scene Hamlet reveals himself to be intellectual, witty and also a coward. Hamlet receives Rosencratz and Guildenstern and immediately suspects they are there to find out what is causing his madness. Hamlet immediately asks them to confess but they deny the whole thing. He is now aware of Claudius’s plan and now has compiled one of his own. The players (actors & actresses) are in Denmark, Hamlet being a big fan, greets them with great respect. He speaks to the head player and asks him to insert a few lines into their routine. This leads to Hamlet’s soliloquy at the end of the scene. In the soliloquy he reveals his plan to the audience about inserting the lines which rein act the murder of his father. He does this so he will be able to read Claudius’s face (Claudius killed Hamlet’s father) to prove that he murdered his father. This plan shows how Hamlet’s character has evolved from his first soliloquy, instead of being angry and not doing anything he has devised a very clever plan, which shows the complexity of his character. This soliloquy also shows another side of Hamlet is cowardice. Hamlet reveals that he is a coward because he is not avenging his father’s death. He says, “Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave, That I, the son of a dear father murder’d, prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, must like a whore unpack my heart with words, and falling a-cursing like a very drab, a scullion!” Hamlet is saying that he is and idiot, his father has been murdered and he seeks revenge but instead of killing the killer he is using words making a plan, he says he doesn’t deserve to be a prince.

As you can see, the two soliloquies play a great role in the play so far revealing a lot about Hamlet’s character and how it has changed. From sorrow, anger melancholy to an intelligent coward. As the play proceeds you will see how both of these sets of characteristics and feelings combine together to further the character of Hamlet.


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