Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the tragic hero reveals his inner conflicts and
introspective attitude in each of the lengthy soliloquies in the play. Hamlet is
a static character whose thoughts never dramatically change. Each soliloquy
delves further into Hamlet's motivations, or lack thereof, and psyche. Each
soliloquy, each slightly different, is all united by vivid imagery,
introspective language, and discussion of Hamlet's delay of action. The first
soliloquy serves to 'set the stage' for the rest of Hamlet's thoughts, feelings,
and actions. It is here that Hamlet first reveals his hatred for his mother's
incestuous marriage to his uncle, Claudius, his low self-image, and his great
reverence for his father. Each aspect of this soliloquy has an integral and
conflicting part in Hamlet's role. While he hates Claudius and immensely
idolizes his father, Hamlet will be plagued by his low self-image, thus taking
no action and contributing even more to his existing problems. In the beginning
lines of this soliloquy Hamlet is already considering suicide. O that this too
too solid flesh would melt,… Or that the Everlasting had not fixed His canon 'gainst
self-slaughter! O God! O God! How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable Seem to me
all the uses of this world (I, ii, 135-140). Through these lines it is obvious
that Hamlet is in the midst of a deep depression. He has no control over the
"uses of the world." Hamlet compares Denmark to an "unweeded
garden" to symbolize the corruption within his country, that is seeded
within Claudius and his incestuous marriage to Gertrude. Hamlet goes on to
compare his father to Claudius and comment on the relationship between King
Hamlet and Gertrude. 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 too roughly (I, ii, 145-148). In Hamlet's eyes Claudius is a beast in
comparison to the god-like features of his father. This lays the foundation for
Hamlet's vengeful intentions. Hamlet's also comments on the loving relationship
enjoyed by his parents, in disbelief of Gertrude's actions. He does not
understand why his mother married Claudius in such haste, causing such internal
torment for Hamlet. This leads Hamlet to make a generalization about all women.
"Frailty, thy name is woman"(I, ii, 146)! Hamlet displays his
inability to separate his emotions from his rational being. Hamlet ends this
soliloquy by resolving to do nothing for the time being. He has laid the
foundation for the rest of the play, but he has also made a decision that will
cause him more pain. His resolution to do nothing will be the source of his
problems in following speeches. The second soliloquy concerns Hamlet's delay of
action. He feels ashamed that he has not avenged his father's death with the
speed and expression exhibited by the actors in the play. Hamlet compares his
inaction to the dramatic expression the actor exhibits for the death of his
character's father. "What would he do, / Had he the motive and cue for
passion/ That I have"(II, ii, 566-68)? Hamlet is amazed that the actor can
conjure such emotions without a real impetus, while he is incapable of doing
anything in response to his father's murder. Hamlet then calls himself a coward
for his inability to say anything in defense of his father. "Am I a
coward"(II, ii, 578)? This is ironic because he is concentrating on the
actor's expression of grief, not a proactive response, which will only inhibit
one's action. Hamlet never discusses the act of vengeance, only the actor's
ability to "cleave the general ear with horrid speech"(II, ii, 569).
Hamlet also displays his low self-esteem in this soliloquy as he sarcastically
describes his inaction. This is most brave, That I, the son of a dear father
murdered, 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…(II, ii, 590-594).
Hamlet is his own worst critic throughout the play. Through this statement,
Hamlet incites himself to the point that he plans some action. "The play's
the thing/ Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king"(II, ii, 611-12).
He plans to put on a play that will mirror his father's murder in order to see
Claudius' guilty reaction. Finally, Hamlet makes a plan. The third soliloquy
shows Hamlet reverting back to the depressed mood of the first soliloquy. As
soon as he made a plan of action, his thoughts regress. Hamlet's thoughts are
about more than contemplation of suicide. He is questioning whether one should
suffer the burdens of society or take action against it. "Whether 'tis
nobler…to suffer/ The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune/ Or take arms
against a sea of troubles…"(III, I, 65-68). These "slings and
arrows" are the conflicts faced by Hamlet and the rest of the world. Next
Hamlet considers suicide as a solution to his problems. "To die-/ to
sleep-perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub! / For in that sleep what dreams
may come…"(III, i, 72-74). Hamlet would like to die only if he can enter
a state of oblivion in which he would not be able to dream. The mystery of what
comes after death is what keeps Hamlet from committing suicide. He says that
people go through life with all of its problems because of "dread of
something after death"(III, I, 86). At the conclusion of this speech it
seems that Hamlet is torn by his morals and his desire for revenge. 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 turn awry And lose the name of action (III, I, 91-96).
With this quote in mind, it is no wonder that Hamlet has been incapable of
action, thus far. He is still struggling with the righteousness of revenge.
Hamlet's conscience is making him a coward by not allowing him to kill Claudius
without knowing that he is justified without a doubt. Hamlet's "pale cast
of thoughts" has continuously undermined his resolution, resulting in his
inaction, which, in turn, causes him deep turmoil. This is the point in the play
where Hamlet seems very noble. His inaction, for which he considers himself a
coward, is revealed to be derived from a deeper source of morality and goodness.
In the last soliloquy Hamlet concentrates more on action. First, Hamlet accuses
himself of thinking too much, resulting with no action. He wishes to cast aside
his "bestial oblivion." Hamlet also reveals that he does not know why
he has yet to take advantage of the opportunity he has had to kill Claudius. The
irony lies in that he continues to ponder why he has not done anything, as he
concludes that he ponders too much. Hamlet relates to Fortinbras because of the
similarities in their situations, but envies him because of the drastically
different approach he takes to honor his father. Hamlet refers to Fortinbras as
a "divine prince" because he respects what Fortinbras is doing to
honor his father. However, Hamlet also exhibits self-loathing in the process.
Rightly to be great Is not to stir without great argument But greatly to find
quarrel in a straw When honor's at stake (IV, iv, 55-58). Hamlet despises the
fact that he has not defended his family's honor. Thus, he decides to have only
"bloody" thoughts, but, yet again, he comes back to his thoughts.
Throughout this last soliloquy he concentrated on action, but in the end his
resolution is nothing more than to think. Hamlet reveals, again, that his
subconscious conscience has not yet concluded that revenge is the answer, while
he externally wishes for the bravery to commit to some action. In each of his
soliloquies, Hamlet laments on his inability to act in response to his father's
death. When he finally does take action, it is because he is forced to, as a
result of plans that Claudius has made. These soliloquies suggest that Hamlet is
more of a scholar than a soldier. He would much rather think about the
metaphysical questions of life than fight for anything. However, he is still
able to retain honor. As he compares himself to Fortinbras, he invokes pity from
the audience because of his deep self-loathing and his innate goodness, which is
why he takes so long to take action. Although each soliloquy takes a slightly
different approach to Hamlet's problem, Hamlet's essence and character never
changes.
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