In this essay I will consider the significance of the soliloquies in Shakespeare's Hamlet.
When Shakespeare wrote his plays he intended to make them entertaining for the era of his time, which was of course the Elizabethan era. At this time there was no technology available, and going to the theatre was the only real form of entertainment that was offered to the people. To ensure that the plays were enjoyable, Shakespeare had to include aspects that were relevant to the people, so that they could relate to what was happening.During the Elizabethan period teachings of Greek mythology were very common, and Shakespeare does relate parts of Greek mythology in the play, so that the audience have more understanding. Also, most Elizabethans were convinced that they lived in a world that God had created, and the christen view that mankind was redeemed by Christ was rarely challenged by Elizabethans. As the majority of Elizabethans were Christians, Shakespeare uses aspects of Christianity in Hamlet, once again so that the audience can relate to the feelings that are portrayed.
At the beginning of a soliloquy there is only one character present, all the others that were in the scene must leave the room before the soliloquy starts. This is because a soliloquy is a dramatic monologue where a single character reflects upon unspoken thoughts. At the start of a soliloquy the audience immediately know that it will bare enormous relevance to the rest of the play, as it displays the emotional state of the character making the speech. The first soliloquy is in Act 1 scene 2, opening with the line 'O that this too solid flesh would melt.
Previous to this soliloquy, Shakespeare has created a very tense, urgent and ominous atmosphere, using aspects of the supernatural to scare the audience. In the very first scene Barnardo (officer of the watch) says "who's there? " to which Marcellus replies "what, has this thing appeared again tonight? " The use of language creates a very anxious atmosphere, which makes the opening moment of the play very gripping and dramatic. Shakespeare creates this anxious atmosphere by using aspects of the supernatural, the guards that are on duty talk to Horatio (a close friend of Hamlet) about a ghost that they have seen.They tell him that the ghost looked like the late King of Denmark (Hamlet's father). The ghost says nothing to the guards, or Horatio "Stay! Speak, speak, I charge thee to speak! " Horatio decides to tell Hamlet about the ghost as he believes that "This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.
" The characters, Cladius (King of Denmark), Gertrude (Queen), Hamlet (Prince of Denmark), Polonius (counsellor to the King), Laertes (Polonius' son), Ophelia (Polonius' daughter), Voltemand and Cornelius (Ambassadors to Norway) and Lords (Courtiers) are introduced.Claudius announces to the court that he has succeeded his brother as King of Denmark and has married his brother's wife. He also informs the court that Fortinbras (Prince of Norway) threatens their state. Cladius advises Hamlet to put away his grief of his father's death. He declares that Hamlet is next to the throne. Cladius also recommends that Hamlet should give up his plans to go back to university, Gertrude agrees with her husband, and Hamlet promises: "I shall in all my best obey you madam.
" This shows to the audience that Hamlet respects his mother, and the decisions that he makes.The point of respecting your parents gives reference to Christian beliefs, which the audience could relate to and involve them more in the play. When Hamlet is alone he expresses his disgust of his Mother, as she married his uncle within a month of his father's death. Hamlet is approached by Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo.
They explain to Hamlet about the ghost, and it leads Hamlet to believe that his father's death may not have resulted from natural causes: "I doubt some foul play". It is at this point that Hamlet speaks his first soliloquy. This soliloquy is crucial to the plot of the play.It allows Hamlet to express his emotions, intentions and feelings to indicate which direction that the play is heading. The soliloquy also allows the audience to understand Hamlet's state of mind and enables them to understand the atmosphere of the situation.
The main theme that is developed in this soliloquy is that of anger. Hamlet displays great anger towards his mother: "Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him, as if increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on; and yet within a month or ere those shoes were old" Hamlet is livid with his mothers decision to marry his uncle.The use of the line "appetite had grown by what it fed on" shows that Hamlet had sexual awareness, and was disgusted by his mother's actions. Throughout the soliloquy Hamlet shows nothing but love for his father and he says how "excellent" a king he was. In this soliloquy the themes of love and hatred are used. The first soliloquy is made by Hamlet.
He is the only character present in the room, as in all soliloquies. The soliloquy shows Hamlet's emotional state. Hamlet compares the two Kings, King Hamlet and Claudius.The audience is already aware of Hamlet's disgust for his mother, after she had married his uncle, and now Hamlet begins to consider suicide as an option to escape from the pain. Hamlet makes it clear that he has decided to live: "Or that Everlasting had not fixed His canon 'gainst self slaughter. " This shows that Hamlet does decide to live.
His decision has been made on the bases of the Christian belief that committing suicide is wrong, the audience of this play could have related to this well, and would have been able to see that Hamlet is a very religious man.Hamlet has separated himself from others and his country, and he is merely thinking of himself: "Must I remember? " This rhetorical question would implicate to the audience that Hamlet is reflecting on his own situations. As this soliloquy does include aspects of Christianity, it does involve and relate to the audience well. This soliloquy allows the audience to understand Hamlet's situation with more understanding of his morals and beliefs.
Hamlet's use of emotive language results in the audience feeling sorry for him: "O God, God, How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable Seem to me the uses of this world! As previously stated, the audience are aware that Hamlet is suicidal, but it would never be a real option to him as it goes against his religion.The use of the duplication on the word "God" shows that his pain is intolerable. It also shows that Hamlet believes that it is God that will be able to solve his problems, the audience would have related to this. The soliloquy also shows how the relationship between Hamlet and Claudius is becoming ever tenser. "My father's brother, but no more like my father Than I to Hercules" By this statement it is meant that Hercules was fathered by Zeus; however he was raised by humans.
From this the audience can see that Hamlet is a very strong-willed character, he was very religious and he dearly loved his father. Hamlet has clear in his mind what is right, and what is wrong: "It is not, nor it cannot come to good. " This is Hamlet speaking of his mother's marriage to his uncle. The fact that Hamlet has said "cannot come to good" gives an insight to the audience that it will surely not come to good, and that it is bound to cause conflict throughout the play.
Hamlet is also disgusted at the speed in which his mother re-married, "Oh most wicked speed" the use of the word "wicked" produces an image of evil in the audience's minds. Evil is often associated with Hell, and the word "wicked" shows a pattern of words that are used by Hamlet that create religious points of view. This is of course essential to the play, as the choice of language made by Shakespeare is how he has reflected his views in this soliloquy. In the first soliloquy, themes such as anger, frustration and treachery are developed.
Shakespeare uses Hamlet to express these views, in the form of a soliloquy. It is clear that Hamlet is becoming depressed with the situation that he has found himself in, "How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable". All of these words are negative, and create an angered tone of voice, this would have been evident to the audience. The way that Shakespeare allows the audience to see what is happening in Hamlet's mind, leads them to anticipate what will happen in the rest of the play, which would obviously endure their interest."But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
These words show that Hamlet is going to hold back on his feelings, and therefore increasing the tension amongst the other characters, which would have left the audience dying to know what is going to happen later in the play. After the first soliloquy Horatio and Marcellus join Hamlet. Horatio tells Hamlet that he believes that he saw the spirit of his father last night. Hamlet appears to be lightened of his pressures, and feels that he has hope that he can still see his father.
"The king my father! " Horatio tells Hamlet "I knew your father, these hands are not more like" Hamlet immediately questions, "But where was this? This shows that Hamlet believes that there is a chance that he can still see his father, and that spirits do exist.The themes that are created in this first soliloquy have arisen from Hamlet's anger at his mother, Gertrude, who has just married his uncle straight after his father has just died. "A little month, or ere those shoes were old which she followed my poor father's body. " The use of the words "ere those shoes were old" is a metaphor that means that Gertrude has married too soon. It could also show Hamlet's anger for Claudius trying to play the fatherly role to Hamlet.
Hamlet believes that his father was so great and even Godly, "so excellent king, that was to this Hyperion to a satyr" Hamlet shows that he believes Claudius is far inferior to his father, much like Hyperion, God of the sun, was superior to a satyr (part human, part goat). Hamlet describes his father to be so caring for his mother, "so loving to my mother that he might not beteem the winds of heaven visit her face too roughly. " This creates an almighty image of Hamlet's father, in the audience's minds, of him protecting his wife from anything that would hurt her in anyway.Shakespeare is using religious language regarding heaven to create images with the audience. Everything that Hamlet has said in this soliloquy regards only himself.
This results in the audience also only thinking about Hamlet. Hamlet often speaks religiously, "O God, God" it may even appear that Hamlet is praying in this soliloquy. The adjectives that are used help immensely in the imagery that is created, "things rank and gross in nature. " This line has come from when Hamlet is describing his mother's marriage, Hamlet is suggesting that it goes against God's laws.
The soliloquy is very successful in communicating Hamlet's emotional state. The audience are given an insight into how Hamlet is feeling, and thinking. The imagery and language allow the audience to understand Hamlet's reasoning for his feelings. This soliloquy allows the audience to connect with Hamlet's emotional state, and will leave them understanding the character with more depth.
Between this soliloquy and Act 3 scene 1 Hamlet's character changes considerably, he has left the emotional state that he was originally in, and now become more rational.However, Hamlet is still quite clearly depressed, and he is still in a suicidal state of mind. However it appears that it is no longer his religion that is preventing him from killing himself, rather then his fear of what "dreams may come". This shows that Hamlet is clearly afraid of the afterlife.
The fact that suicide was also a crime in the Elizabethan era, will also encourage the audience to steer away from suicide, as they will also never know "what dreams may come", or what will happen to their souls after they die. Before the third soliloquy, Claudius is becoming increasingly anxious.His conscience has crept up on him, and the crime that he committed is beginning to haunt him. Claudius and Polonius try to spy on Hamlet, so that they can discover what it is that is distressing him. Shakespeare develops Hamlet's state of mind in this soliloquy, and this is reflected with the language that he uses, and the pattern that he says it in. In this soliloquy, |hamlet speaks as though he is confused, and he asks many questions throughout the soliloquy.
"To be, or not to be", "To die, to sleep. " These lines show that Hamlet is in a state of uncertainty and confusion.Hamlet is questioning whether he should live or die. As in the first soliloquy, Hamlet is directing his speech at the audience. However, the advantage that the audience have now is that they understand Hamlet's character and state of mind.
After everything that Hamlet has had to suffer, he still refuses to blame Claudius for the death of his father, "The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" this shows that Hamlet believes that he is suffering the pain of ill fate. He is blaming fate and not Claudius for the death of his father. Hamlet begins to describe the enormity of his problems, "take arms against a sea of troubles".Shakespeare uses the extended metaphor of the sea in this soliloquy.
Using the "sea" emphasises the vastness of Hamlet's sense of torment. The sea suggests the uncharted depths and ups and downs of life's troubles. Shakespeare picks up the metaphor again later on in the soliloquy: "great pitch and movement" and "currents the awry. " This gives the affect that Hamlet's troubles are represented by the tide turning, which indicates a change in tone, Hamlet no longer plans to take his own life.
Themes of pain and discomfort are regularly discussed in this soliloquy.Thoughts of death and afterlife are ever present in Hamlet's confused mind. Shakespeare keeps the audience focused on these themes by using imagery and metaphors. Imagery is used to express Hamlet's pain, "The heart ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" These words are telling the audience that Hamlet may believe that death is better than living with its pain and shocks. Hamlet still feels scared of the unknown afterlife, "To sleep, perchance to dream-ay, there's the rub" The dreams of sleep are a metaphor for the afterlife.The fact that Hamlet doesn't know what his "sleep" will bring provides the obstacle in his decision.
Shakespeare uses the imagery in this soliloquy to ensure that the audience's responses are the ones that he wanted. Shakespeare allows the audience to see that Hamlet is trying to be rid of his pain: "When we have shuffled off this mortal coil" the use of the word "shuffle" create an image of Hamlet trying to shrug off his pain and discomfort. Shakespeare uses the metaphor of a snake to create an image of evil in the afterlife: "mortal coil". By using these words an image of a snake is produced in the audience's minds.The image related to the unknown of the afterlife, which was a popularly debated topic in the Elizabethan era.
Shakespeare would have purposely chosen a snake as it is commonly represented as evil i. e. In the Garden of Eden. Not only did the snake represent evil in the Garden of Eden, the snake also represented temptation.
This links with the soliloquy as Hamlet's temptation to take his own life. The impact that the language has is that the audience feel increasingly sympathetic towards Hamlet, and even angrier towards the evil characters such as Claudius. In the first soliloquy, Hamlet only concerns himself, often referring to "I".However, in this soliloquy Hamlet appears to b directing his speech to more then just himself. He uses pronouns such as "we", "us" and "us all". This will involve the audience more in Hamlet's predicament.
Shakespeare's use of language is very calm and intellectual. Hamlet questions whether life is worth living until old age: "For who would bare the whips and scorns of time" This is a metaphor for getting old. It shows that Hamlet still is unsure if the pain that he is suffering is worth living for. Shakespeare uses onomatopoeic verbs that describe the life that people endure: "To grunt and sweat under a weary life".These verbs create a harsh sound, this approximates life's harshness.
Hamlet is also clearly worried about Heaven and Hell: "The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn no traveller returns, puzzles the will" Hamlet is simply saying that no one actually knows what Heaven and Hell are like, as no one has ever returned from either. It is one of life's unanswered mysteries. This would appeal to the audience, as it is also a mystery to them, and guide their thought processes as Shakespeare would have intended. The dramatic effect of this soliloquy is vital to the play.
It produces historical lines, "To be, or not to be, that is the question" which would not only leave the audience at the time wrapped up in Shakespeare's use of language, but even people of today's world. The physiological thoughts of afterlife in this soliloquy are so vivid and powerful, they are crucial to the development of Hamlet's character. The various different scenarios that Hamlet could be left in invite the audience to think about what would happen to them. Whether to suffer life's pain, or to take the easy route out. However the easy route out has unknown mysteries that certainly prevent Hamlet from committing suicide.The soliloquy shows the importance of turning thoughts into actions, which is still significant in people's lives today.
The fear that you would be condemned to Hell was more frightening in Elizabethan times. This would have been true for the audience that this play was intended for. Comparing the two soliloquies, the audience's involvement is heightened from mere allusions, to Greek myths. This expresses the complexity in personality, emotional state and beliefs of Hamlet's character. The soliloquies successfully show Hamlet as a dramatic character, who's morals and beliefs help him to overcome obstacles in life.