Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain! O, vengeance! Why, what an ass am I!
- Essay on Soliloquies in Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
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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 fall a-cursing, like a very drab, A scullion! Fie upon't! About, my brain! I have heard That guilty creatures sitting at a play Have by the very cunning of the scene Been struck so to the soul that presently They have proclaim'd their malefactions; For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak With most miraculous organ.
I'll have these players Play something like the murder of my father Before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks; I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench, I know my course. The spirit that I have seen May be the devil: and the devil hath power To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps Out of my weakness and my melancholy, As he is very potent with such spirits, Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds More relative than this: the play 's the thing Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
This soliloquy illustrates Hamlet's continued inability to do anything of consequence. He lacks the knowledge of how to remedy the pain caused by his present circumstances, so he wonders how an actor would portray him, saying, '[he would] drown the stage with tears'.
One has to assume that this is what Hamlet wants to do, and what he feels his father's death deserves, yet he is unable to respond in this way. He wonders if he is a coward, since he does not 'cleave the general ear with horrid speech' or 'make mad the guilty and appal the free'. He asks, 'who calls me villain?
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At this point, he is accusing himself of villainy for not speaking on behalf of his dear, recently-deceased, father. He believes that he must be a 'pigeon-liver'd' coward, lacking 'gall', because he does not do anything about the 'bloody, bawdy villain', Claudius. He wants revenge on his 'remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless', uncle, but he can only complain to himself and accomplish nothing. However, his feelings settle some when Hamlet remembers that a play, reflecting the murder of Old Hamlet, by Claudius, might cause the latter to react in such a way as to prove his guilt.
He needs this evidence because he worries that the ghost that he has spoken with could turn out to be 'a devil', luring him, in his weak and melancholy state, to commit a sin against his possibly innocent uncle. The play, which he plans with the acting troupe, will give him the answers that he requires. Hamlet still feels grief-stricken, frustrated and angry, but his impotent and confused cowardice is being overcome by a belief that he can do something about his situation.
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, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. Hamlet's third soliloquy is the famous 'to be, or not to be' speech. Once again Hamlet is confused and contemplating death.
He is wondering whether life or death is preferable; whether it is better to allow himself to be tormented by all the wrongs that he considers 'outrageous fortune' bestowed on him, or to arm himself and fight against them, bringing them to an end.
Hamlet, Act III, Scene I [To be, or not to be]
If he were to die, he feels that his troubles, his 'heart-ache', would end. Death is still something that he finds appealing, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished'. Yet, even death troubles him, as to die might mean to dream and he worries about the dreams he might have to endure, 'in that sleep of death what dreams may come'. He is still contemplating suicide and considers how, by taking one's own life, with 'a bare bodkin', or dagger, one might avoid 'whips and scorns' and other hard-to-bear wrongs. However, he refers to death as 'the dread of something' in the 'undiscover'd country', and this shows that he worried about how his soul might be treated in the afterlife.
He decides that fears concerning the puzzling and 'dreadful' afterlife, together with the conscience, cause people to bear the wrongs inflicted during their life on earth, rather than commit suicide and risk offending God. The fear of arriving somewhere unknown and frightening—possibly the torments of hell—is proof that 'conscience does make cowards of us all'. People, he concludes, tend to think things over, lack resolve and do nothing. When Hamlet is remarking on such people, he is actually talking about himself. He believes that his uncle is wicked and deserves to die. He believes that it is he who should end his uncle's life.
But he is afraid of going to purgatory, as the spirit claiming to be his father has done. He is afraid of risking hell by committing suicide. He is afraid of doing the wrong thing, and is inactive, partly because of his conscience. He is afraid of the potential consequences that his religious upbringing—an upbringing that would have been the norm—claim would come if he commits suicide. Hamlet continues to feel frustrated and angry in his grief, and his feelings of impotence have returned. Although Claudius's response to the play indicated guilt, Hamlet still does not know what the right thing to do is—right in the eyes of God, that is.
All three speeches illustrate a man, confused and wracked by grief, wanting revenge, but not knowing how to go about responding to what has happened. He is uncertain of his own feelings and how to cope with them. He feels weak, melancholic and powerless. He does not know what the right thing to do is, or how to do it. In all three soliloquies, Hamlet is struggling to make sense of his overwhelming grief. Though the words remain the same, I feel that different actors and directors may bring different interpretations, and, of course, different qualities, to the soliloquies.
Some of the greatest actors in the world have portrayed Hamlet, and we are lucky that many of their performances have been recorded. Here are a few of those great performances. This technique is suggestive of the rapidly changing moods of their speakers. You'll notice that the soliloquies appear when a speaker is on the verge of madness, vengeance, or heartache.
Bio: Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, who was widely regarded as both the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often referred to as England's national poet, or the "Bard of Avon. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Shakespeare produced his works between and His early plays were usually comedies and histories.
They are regarded as some of the best work ever produced in these genres. After this, until about , he wrote mostly tragedies. These included Hamlet , Othello , King Lear , and Macbeth , all of which are considered to be among the finest works in the English language. In the last phase of his life, he wrote tragicomedies also known as romances. He also began collaborating with other playwrights. Hamlet has been adapted into, or has inspired, hundreds of other plays, books, and movies.
The play has stood the test of time due to its powerful moral themes and its maddening existential questions. Morality in Hamlet: Throughout the play immoral acts result in death and a cycle of the need for revenge. One character deems avenging his father a moral action and in doing so he creates a cycle of death. Many lives are lost in the pursuit to commit a moral act. Greek philosophy in Hamlet: On the surface, Hamlet contains the elements of a classic revenge tragedy. However, the themes run much deeper, alluding to philosophical musings by Aristotle and Socrates.
The play is like a greek tragic drama wherein a character's tragic flaw causes a catharsis in an audience. Influence on Existentialism: Hamlet is called to choose and create his identity or essence or self because man, according to existentialism, has no fixed nature.
Importance of Hamlet's Soliloquies in Shakespeare's Hamlet | SchoolWorkHelper
This freedom of choice entails commitment and responsibility. Therefore, he is caused great anguish. Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.
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Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. Oh I love Hamlets writing and am coming back to visit your article for more scenes I enjoyed your analysis of Hamlet's soliloquies. I read this play a few years ago, and have been meaning to re-read it since, I think this hub just inspired me. You get something different out of it every time. Great, So much deliverance and so hard work.
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Really appreciable. I have read a few about Hamlet in school course but now this information will help me in my poetry creation. Thanks a lot my friend. Thank you very much for your kind words. I find that there is always something new to discover in 'Hamlet'. Great analysis! I first read Hamlet when I was fifteen and didn't understand a great deal of it, but this makes me want to re-read it and find all the wonderful nuances that it holds. I hope that is OK :. As for King Lear, I haven't read it, yet, I'm afraid, but it sounds really good, and I shall try to read it soon.
I think that I would enjoy it. Hamlet is one of my all time favorites. I enjoy your examination here. Living is a passive state; dying is an active state. But in order to reach the condition of death one has to take action in life — charge fully armed against Fortune — so the whole proposition is circular and hopeless because one does not really have the power of action in life. Death is something desirable — devoutly to be wished, a consummation — a perfect closure. With that thought, Hamlet stops to reconsider.
What will happen when we have discarded all the hustle and bustle of life? The problem with the proposition is that life after death is unknown and could be worse than life. And now Hamlet reflects on a final end. Who would bear that when he could just draw a line under life with something as simple as a knitting needle — a bodkin? And how easy that seems. Hamlet now lets his imagination wander on the subject of the voyages of discovery and the exploratory expeditions.
Dying is like crossing the border between known and unknown geography.
Hamlet stands at a moment when his life must be the forfeit for even a brief delay, yet on the appearance of Osric, he enters with zest into the sport of euphuistic banter, and thence proceeds, not to the contrivance of serious measures against his mortal foe, but to a fencing match. The most impressive contrast between incentive and inactivity thus immediately precedes the catastrophe.
There is no trace of this design in the quarto of ; neither the moment of resolve nor the following unconcerned fooling with the courtier appears. Indeed our examination has made it evident that, while the first quarto merely tells a revenge story in dramatic form without any logical necessity in the train of events and without any fatal connection between character and catastrophe, the second quarto has achieved this necessity and this connection by the structural device of presenting a series of moments of strong incentive and vigorous resolve, each followed by an equally conspicuous inactivity.
In order to fit into this structural scheme, Hamlet's soliloquy, "To be or not to be," had to be transferred to its present position in the drama. In the quarto of , as is well known, this passage directly follows the disclosure to the court by Polonius Corambis of Hamlet's love for Ophelia. Shortly afterward the players arrive, Hamlet listens to the declamation about Hecuba, and, stung by remorse, resolves upon the play as a means of assuring himself of the king's guilt.
This resolve he puts into immediate execution, thus securing the complete demonstration which he sought. Now this portrayal of Hamlet forming a purpose, and then energetically carrying that purpose into operation, is contrary to the fundamental idea of the tragedy as developed in the second quarto. This fundamental idea demands a structure which shall exhibit every resolve followed by inactivity.
Yet the performance of the play before the king, as an essential episode in the unfolding of the dramatic action, must be retained. Here then is the problem. How is it possible to represent the perfect execution of this resolve and, at the same time, to preserve for us a Hamlet whose moments of determination are invariably followed by inertia?
The solution is at once simple and masterly. The soliloquy is transferred to a position between the conception and the representation of the play which was "to catch the conscience of the king. Yet in the very next scene, instead of being concerned with the serious events now in progress, his mind, wandering far away from his task, is indulging in vague speculations upon suicide.
This famous soliloquy in its new position thus becomes one of the most striking of those moments of lassitude and inactivity which in Hamlet invariably follow the moments of resolve. It takes its essential place in the structure of a drama which represents a tragic catastrophe as springing, not from mere external accident, but from lack of harmony between character and circumstance. Lewis F. Notes 1.
Publications of the Modern Language Association, Vol. XVII, pp.
Related Hamlet´s Soliloquies: Emphasis on ´to be or not to be´
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