The Soliloquies of HamletAuthors use various literary elements to give insight into the mentalcomposition of their characters. In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,”we can trace Hamlet’s mental process through his soliloquies.
Hamlet’s first soliloquy reveals him to be thoroughly disgusted withGertrude, Claudius, and the world in general. “How weary, stale, flat andunprofitable, seem to me all the uses of this world” (1284), he said. He issaddened by the death of his father, who he admired as a king and husband to hismother. His grief over his father’s death is compounded by his mother’s hastymarriage to Claudius. Hamlet protests, “a beast, that wants discourse of reason,would have mourn’d longer” (1285). The worst part is that he cannot tell themhow he feels.
In his second soliloquy, Hamlet becomes curious and suspicious afterhearing of the ghost. “My father’s spirit in arms! All is not well; I doubtsome foul play” (1287), he said. Hamlet feels that the presence of the ghostindicates that his father died due to dubious circumstance.After talking with his father’s ghost, in the 3rd Soliloquy Hamlet isangered by the news that Claudius had murdered his father. Hamlet assures thathe will think of nothing but revenge.
“I’ll wipe away all trivial fondrecords…and thy commandment all alone shall live within the book and volume ofmy brain” (1296), he proclaims.In Hamlet’s fourth soliloquy, his mental state shows signs ofdeclination.
He castigates himself for not taking action to avenge his father.He realizes that he has cause to kill Claudius, but cannot muster the chutzpahto go through with it. He said, “Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,that I..
.must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words” (1314). He alsoexpresses some doubt that the ghost was telling the truth. He said, “The spiritthat I have seen May be the devil: and the devil hath power T’assume a pleasingshape.
..” (1315). However upset he is with himself, Hamlet is sure that theplay he has arranged will reveal Claudius’ guilt.In the fifth soliloquy, Hamlet hits upon a mental nadir.
As hecontemplates suicide, Hamlet asks himself if it is more honorable to live withlife’s misfortunes or to die young and bypass all the hardships. Hamletsuggests that the reason we choose life is because we know nothing about death,except that it is final. It is “the undiscovered country from whose bourn notraveller returns” (1317). He goes on to say, “Thus conscience does makecowards of us all” (1317). Subscribing to this theory, Hamlet takes thecoward’s way and does not take his life.
Hamlet’s mental status shows some promise in his sixth soliloquy.Extremely resentful toward Gertrude, part of Hamlet really wants to hurt her.Sensibility prevails as he admits that it is not his nature to harm. Heresolves to “speak daggers to her, but use none” (1328).In his seventh, and final, soliloquy, Hamlet gains the courage tofinally avenge his father. After talking with a captain in Fortinbras’ army,Hamlet is inspired by the men going off to Poland to fight for not much morethan pride. Hamlet then feels ashamed of his unwillingness to go after Claudius.
It dawned on Hamlet that he had been thinking too much and acting too little. “Now, whether it be bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple of thinking tooprecisely on th’ event, A thought which, quarter’d, hath but one part wisdom andever three parts coward, I do not know why yet I live to say, “This thing’s todo” (1342). With his newfound determination to avenge his father’s murder, hevows, “O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth”(1342).There is no doubt that movies and television shows have replaced playsas main sources of entertainment. Unfortunately, modern entertainment sourcesrarely utilize important forms of discourse, such as the soliloquy.
Thesoliloquy can be a powerful tool used to gain access into the deepest thoughtsof a character. I submit that without it, “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” wouldhave had a different effect. Instead, Hamlet’s soliloquies gave depth to hisemotions, making the audience aware of his internal conflicts.