Hamlet's Soliloquies - I


The peculiar feature of William Shakespeare's ‘Hamlet’ as a play is that it is characterized by five soliloquies, each one of them being spoken by Hamlet on different occasions. They lend to the character of Hamlet a different hue and make the play a philosophical one rather than a mere revenge play. Some critics like T.S. Eliot have pointed out that the soliloquies are a serious drawback of the play and manifest an excess of emotion improper to action.
D.H.Lawrence in his essay, ‘On Drama’ points out that Hamlet’s personality is in a state of disintegration, that is, his head, heart and hand do not work in unison but reflect Hamlet’s nature. Apart from this, we cannot conceive of his character.
The first soliloquy of Hamlet from Act I, scene ii is:

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
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. Heaven and earth!
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--
Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!--
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.

This soliloquy is a remarkable indication of the state of mind Hamlet is in. we have before us a simultaneous presentation of the present chaos and the past orderly conditions. The death of his father and over-hasty marriage of his mother creates a terror in his mind and he begins to contemplate committing suicide. But then as a true Christian he remembers he ought not to follow that urge and instead wishes that the Almighty had not made any law forbidding suicide. So we come to know that Hamlet is a true Christian at heart inspite of his education.
Hamlet is not able to reconcile himself to the hasty marriage of his mother; it had only been a month since his father died. Hamlet’s statement, “Frailty, thy name is woman!” sums up his views about women in general, to be analyzed in context of his shock experienced at his mother’s behaviour.
This soliloquy is a beginning of Hamlet’s journey towards self-understanding. He says “I must hold my tongue”, he clearly sees through the urgency of keeping quiet and maintaining his silence at this point of time. He needs to watch the situation to unfold itself, a deeper analysis would be required before coming to any conclusion as far as fixing the blame for his father’s murder on his uncle Claudius (whom now Hamlet’s mother has married) is concerned.

2 comments:

  1. Pranam!
    Ghost seemed to be selfish in front of Hamlet! His mother's decisions also seems selfish! A punishment wont restore the idealized images of his mother! But moral outrage compels action-but it is reaction in the form of action-a deceptive concept!
    Shakespeare's creative mind would have fought with some paradoxes. That's why critics say soliloquies are drawbacks and at fault. Same time hands of his clock seems alerting the realism! If we could interpret Hamlet from the mental planes of Shakespeare, hope, soliloquies might have unfolded away from the land of contradictions!

    Hamlet put the questions in to the TIME! A philosophical move-infallible one!

    Still the truth can be that the ghost appeared had the same face of Shakespeare!

    'I will have such revenges on you both.......
    ................
    What they are yet, I know not......
    ..........'

    Why the mother feel guilty, to confront the spirit?
    Claudius will be knowing it better!

    I loved the way you narrated the whole. As usual you were in high spirits, without any fault!

    Thank you!

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  2. Its regarded that Shakespeare's stories were inspired by the incidents that happened during his lifetime. May be he was trying to empathize with Hamlet and trying to get under the skin of the character might have labored the writer to deliver soliloquies. A great writer for that matter an artist has to get into the skin of the character to deliver a master piece.

    Your passion for the literary world is so evident in this post :)

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