Hamlet’s First Soliloquy

Published: 2021-09-27 16:20:03
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Category: Macbeth, Othello, Revenge, Hamlet

Type of paper: Essay

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Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act I Scene 2 is the first time that the reader fully understands Hamlet’s character, his inner thoughts and opinions. The general tone of this soliloquy is very personal and emotional revealing Hamlet’s despair over the current situation and his depressing state of mind. It sets the stage for the rest of the story, being Hamlet’s hatred of Claudius and resentment of his mother. Previous to this soliloquy we learn that King Hamlet’s brother, Claudius, has become the new king of Denmark by entering into an incestuous marriage with Queen Gertrude, the late king’s wife.
Claudius has made a grandiose, eloquent speech presenting him and his wife to the court, manipulating and distracting his audience from the abnormality of the situation. Hamlet, naturally still mourning his father’s death, is shocked by how quickly everyone has forgotten and refuses to play along with Claudius’ show. Hamlet interrupts the speech with snide, witty comments like, “a little more than kin and less than kind,” addressing the unnatural relationship that him and Claudius now have. The King and Queen turn to Hamlet and encourage him to get over father’s death and to stay in Denmark under the pretense of loving him.
When Hamlet again interrupts with spiteful words against both his mother and Claudius, Claudius publicly humiliates Hamlet by making a speech, highlighting the reasons why Hamlet cannot be king. Instead of refuting Claudius, Hamlet becomes compliant to his mother’s wishes and agrees to stay in Denmark. Shakespeare utilizes situational irony at this point in the story where once Hamlet is left alone we expect him to explode into anger, but instead he falls into a passive state of self-pitying. “O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew. In this line Hamlet expresses his desire to commit suicide which alerts the reader to his depressive state. The way in which he describes the act as “melting” also alerts us to his sedentary disposition, in that even the taking of one’s own life is inactive. In the next line Hamlet informs us that he cannot commit suicide because of his religious views. “Or that the Everlasting had not fixed his canon ’gainst self-slaughter! ” Hamlets inability to commit a sin shows us that he has a high moral standing and an air of innocence.

In this soliloquy Hamlet is deeply conflicted and unable to resolve to commit himself to a course of action as is seen through his cyclical thought process. Hamlet employs many allusions within this soliloquy to make a comparison between Hamlet Sr. and Claudius. Hamlet uses mythological characters to compare his father to Claudius saying that “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 to roughly. Hamlet believes that comparing his father to Claudius is like comparing Hyperion, the Titan God of Light to a half-man, half goat. Through this analogy we realize that Hamlet has a very idealized view of not only his father but also Hamlet Sr. and Gertrude’s marriage. This builds in him a resentment of Gertrude for so easily moving on and an even greater hatred of Claudius for corrupting his mother. Hamlet then goes on to contrast his father and Claudius by comparing himself to Hercules, unintentionally associating himself with Claudius. My father’s brother, but no more like my father than I to Hercules. ” This line further shows the deterioration of Hamlet’s self-image. Hamlet’s first soliloquy helps the reader to understand the source of Hamlet’s action throughout the rest of the play. It introduces his self-destructive ways and tendency to refrain from acting. It also introduces a later recurrence of Hamlet’s deep disturbance of his mother and Claudius’ relationship.

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