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How Shakespeare portrays Hamlet’s dilemma through the soliloquies

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  • Pages: 11
  • Word count: 2535
  • Category: Hamlet

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The central theme of this play of whether Hamlet should take revenge on his Uncle for his Father’s death or not is reflected in both soliloquies (Act 2 Scene 2). Hamlet almost discusses with the audience what his course of action should be, making both soliloquies very powerful and effective, almost the part the audience take away and remember or the famous lines that become common everyday phrases (for example to be or not to be). It’s in these soliloquies that we truly see the power of the character Hamlet and begin to become acquainted with him, in an unusually effective depth of emotion and feeling.

Shakespeare uses the surroundings to portray a deep, dramatic dilemma through the soliloquies, which gives the play it’s strong, tragic genre. Shakespeare wrote in the Elizabethan age 1591 – 1611 a span of 20 years, in which he wrote approximately 37 plays. Most (if not all) of Shakespeare’s plot lines aren’t of his own creation, but borrowed from other writers. Hamlets story line itself was taken from a man called Saxo Grammaticus who wrote and lived in around the time of 1300. The original real Hamlet title was ‘The tragical history of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark’.

Most of Shakespeare’s plays were associated with the harshness and judgemental side of life. They involved trials and edventual death of an important person (the hero) which greatly affected a large number of people. Usually the hero commits a fatal flaw, and begins to often speak aloud on his own, ‘narrating’ the play almost. This suggests madness and indecision and is usually good for the tension and suspense. The plays usually follow a strong plot line containing revenge and regicide, father and son, murder and poison and family and madness.

This intwined with the popular specific genre tradgedy from the Classical era and the way people without facts had to turn to belief in the late 1500’s makes a very effective, probable play. Up to the point of the first soliloquay Hamlet is distraught as he returns from England on the news of his Fathers startling, unforeseen death. Unluckily and not what he needed he returns to a more unsettling, disturbing atmosphere as before to find his Mother married to his dead Fathers brother, who in Hamlet’s opinion is ‘no more like my Father than I to Hercules’.

This leaves Hamlet rattled, broken and confused. I personally find the first soliloquay very effective. It strongly keeps the audience intreged form start to finish with its powerful wording, imagery and juxtaposition techniques. I feel someone could read it over and over. It pulls you in with the passion of a poem, which I believe was what Shakespeare originally meant for it to come across. The language is rich and educated which helps Hamlets position as a very important person become more believable.

The first line introduces itself almost with a dramatic imposing out of place interruption, that may come across in two obvious, blunt ways, emotional or inessential. ‘O that this too too solid flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew! ‘ This subtle similie uses juxtaposition and exaggeration to get a strong point across and, creates powerful imagery to an extent that a visual aid wouldn’t be needed, proving the sentence works. This is even more effective than a visual aid in a way as everyone creates an image they can understand individually in their minds.

I believe it should be preformed with a strong tone of disbelief, laughing and crying at the same time and Hamlet shaking his head from side to side to desperately rid oneself of life’s pressurising problems and decisions unsuccessfully. The soliloquay also includes strong, religious beliefs which set the atmosphere and era. The atmosphere is very important for the audience because if it wasn’t there, the sense of excitement would be gone and the play would seem less realistic. ‘Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d his canon ‘gainst self slaughter!

O God! God! ‘ Impressive words are used and in effective places, that have more than one meaning, such as ‘Everlasting’ and ‘Canon’. These two words suggest juxtaposition as everybody knows a canon blast cannot possibly last for ever and neither can the lives it kills. The canon works symbolically suggesting an overpowering, murdering weapon, waiting in the heavens and controlling all behaviour using the fear of punishment to control beings. A leader who punishes and kills freely and can still be seen as good. This relates strongly to the idea of God.

As this line is a fact (which it would have been in the 1500’s when religion was fact) it should be said in a sure tone but also Hamlet should sound fustrated being restricted by belief to kill himself. The sentence contains emjambement which gives it a poetic, high class feel and along with subtle iambic pentameter it grabs your attention and lasts in the audiences memories. This could be useful if the plot needed the audience to remember something for later on in the play. Iambic pentameter is used a lot in Shakespeare’s soliloquies, which could have something to do with the fact he was also a poet.

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world’. This line should be preformed in a detached way, to exaggerate it’s iambic pentameter. There is some slight hidden metaphors in the descriptive words such as ‘stale’. This word is usually used to describe a piece of bread gone hard or bad if you like, and cannot be eaten anymore, so its useless and must be thrown away. Using this word and talking about the Earth implies that the Earth has gone hard, bad and out of use. This is effective considering how Hamlet feels, the audience feel he has sunken into a dark, lonely pit of depression.

When Hamlet also the describes the world as ‘flat’ this may grab the audiences attention considering that it has been discovered (late 1500’s would have just discovered) that the Earth isn’t flat any longer but Hamlet wouldn’t know this, as the play Hamlet was written to be set earlier. This sets the time of the play for the audience as well as showing how dull he feels. Hamlet then uses relative imagery from nature, which is probably an image he would be a lot more familiar with than us, quoting ‘ ’tis an unweeded garden, That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature. This uses personal imagery that everybody can relate to, explaining how rank and gross this really must be and setting the audience a picture for them to see to.

Hamlet obviously dislikes his Uncle (Claudius) and hates the way he has taken over his Fathers life when he has no right to, so playing on the idea brothers should be alike, he compares his Father and Claudius a lot in an unexpected way, using symbolically important objects for imagery and juxtaposition to show the utterly astounding difference between the two. ‘.. yperion to a satyr’ This helps the Kings character become more respected and Claudius’s become less respected which is needed in order to have successful characters, which in return is needed for the full effect of the play, making the emotion stronger for the characters.

The stronger the feeling, the higher the feel good factor for the audience after the performance and thus, the higher the success. The play as we know contains strong supernatural and religious beliefs to interest the audience and make them feel the play seems more allude, to add to the excitement and effect on the audience as a whole. …. That he might not beteem the winds of heaven visit her face too roughly. ‘ Exaggeration is used which makes the audience feel Hamlet really did believe that his father loved his mother very much. I believe wind is a key word used with supernatural beliefs because it is the good option to blame unexplained moving objects on, as the common phrase goes “oh, it was just the wind. ”

Shakespeare’s key words are very effective as they shape the whole sentence without the audience knowing it until they read it. Why, she would hang on him As if increase of appetite had grown… ‘ This sentence suggests painful pangs of love, and its not until you read it through you notice this comes from the key word ‘appetite’. The audience all feel they can relate to this sentence as Hamlet recites it as everyone suffers from pangs of hunger, which is taken from appetite. If everyone knows what pangs of hunger can feel like, they can relate to pangs of love, which is what Shakespeare is describing in that sentence.

Hamlet is obviously not a very sexist character, but in certain cases from outrage and aggression he lets sexist remarks slip, but manages to do it in such a way that the audience indeed don’t feel he is sexist but quite the opposite. ‘Frailty, thy name is woman! ‘ Hamlet says such remarks only in a frustrated temper which proves that he doesn’t often say it or like to think it, and uses his temper as a chance to let it out. Of course this is an opinion of his Mother (Gertrude), who has failed as a strong female role model for him during this hard time.

To describe the way Gertrude has been acting Shakespeare uses fake, fantasy symbols and images to describe the way things should have been. ‘Or ere those shoes were old with which she followed my poor father’s body…. ‘ The shoes work symbolically as images that don’t really exist, when Hamlet knows they should. He tells of flashbacks, about how upset Gertrude was at first and how this must have all been an act, ‘Like Niobe, all tears – why she……. ‘ ‘a beast that wants discourse of reason would have mourned longer… this works by comparing Gertrude to the respected religious symbol Niobe, a perfect, loyal female role model to men, ‘the perfect wife’ almost.

This thought is then left to the audience, to see if they can come up with a reasonable explanation to why Gertrude acted as she did. Hamlet then goes on to explain her ways to a beast, an animal blessed with less emotion that can show more sympathy. The audience would probably be very involved silently at these lines as Hamlet almost asked them of their opinion.

The lines should be performed in an almost sarcastic, unbelievable way to exaggerate how puzzled Hamlet is about the way Gertrude has been acting. Often the audience feel strong sympathy for Hamlet, they must sit there silently while lonely Hamlet pours his heart for comfort out to no one but himself and an empty room, especially the way this problem is pushing down heavily on Hamlets shoulders only. No one shares his opinion, he is completely isolated. ‘But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue. ‘

In between the first and the second soliloquay Hamlets tune changes completely, from devastation to antagonism, due to the main incident that brings a whole new light to the play that happens between these two soliloquies. This is what makes them work so well togther, as they are very alike but yet so different in the mood that comes across to the audience. Hamlet receives a visit from his dead Father’s spirit, telling Hamlet he was murdered by Claudius in a most ‘unnatural death’ and now (most disgustingly) holds possession of his wife and throne.

From then on in the play is the tender area where it is now completely up to Hamlet to decide his course of action and, being a noble man leaves it too late and causes deaths of many others (the hero’s fatal flaw) including himself. The audience through this time are held in suspense and left to wonder why he isn’t making a murderous move on his Uncle. I believe that both audiences (modern and old) would not have taken Hamlet for a coward for different reasons. It is true that in the 1500’s killing wasn’t such a huge thing, but more as arguments and squabbles are today.

It was more something that had to be done for families or friends and 1 in 5 people had probably killed in order to stop a disagreement (as violence was the number one umpire in the times of castles and low education) and they would be forgiven by all but enemies, it would be seen as good and constructive and this is just the way it had to be. As men were seen as the powerful, protective sex if they couldn’t kill when many wanted him too, he would be seen as a coward. But, despite all this, in the 1500’s the Bible was as law today, claiming two wrongs don’t make a right and people must forgive and forget.

If people went against the Bibles rules it was seen as a ‘sin’ and hell was left to decide the fate of such people. The earlier audience (and often still today) could relate strongly to a decision that may go against the Bible and would see the dilemma through Hamlet’s point of view. However modern audiences can relate to his dilemma also as today murderers aren’t 1 in 5 but maybe 1 in 5 million as it would have been, and to murder is a world event that will affect a great deal of peoples lives forever more.

The second soliloquay is more to show the audience how Hamlet makes up his mind about killing Claudius, rather than the first which is more to become acquainted with the character of Hamlet. A large part is taken up by Hamlet discussing how an actor can show such great emotion, when there is nothing truly wrong with him, and how would he act then if he really had something piercing his side, as Hamlet does. This then leads onto Hamlet’s idea of how to see his Uncles guilt, and that’s too make the actors play a play that much resembles what happened between Claudius and his Father on the time of his murder.

If a do blench then I know my cause… ‘ ‘The play’s the thing Wherein I’ll catch conscience of the King. ‘ In this soliloquay (unlike the other) Hamlet isn’t always low, depressed and isolated, sitting and crouching, but he is more frustrated, pacing long strides across the stage and shouting ever so often. ‘Bloody, Bawdy villain! Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain! O vengence! ‘ These powerful words are most unlike the emotional piercing ones used in the first soliloquay, and would make the audience see how low Hamlet thinks of Claudius, and the obvious reasons why.

The two words ‘Bloody’ and ‘Bawdy’ villain work well together as juxtaposition, involving the audience making them think and creating a good overview of Claudius. As the last soliloquay, Hamlet again compares a lot to strong symbolic images. ‘Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,… ‘ He seldolmly compliments himself, but continues to compare himself with scum. This suggests Hamlet is not happy with himself or the way he is acting and makes the audience feel emphathy for him, knowing how he is describing himself is not what he deserves.

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