The Seven Soliloquies of Hamlet
In dramas, soliloquies are often used to reveal the most intimate thoughts of a character. In the “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” by William Shakespeare, the title character has seven key soliloquies. Through careful analysis of the soliloquies, one can trace the spiritual crisis that Hamlet underwent. Thus, the seven key soliloquies in “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” are relevant because they allow the reader to follow the progression of Hamlet’s spiritual crisis. The first key soliloquy is found in Act 1 Scene 2 of the tragedy.
When the story began, Queen Gertrude immediately married King Claudius shortly after the death of Hamlet’s father. As a result, Hamlet felt hatred against his uncle. Hamlet did not think his uncle was as great as a king like his father. In his soliloquy, he said: “So excellent a king, that was to this/ Hyperion to a satyr” (I. ii. 143-144). However, Hamlet’s anger towards his mother was more intense. It was this anger which made him utter: “Frailty, thy name is woman! ” (I. ii. 150). In fact, his distrust towards women in general stemmed from the rage he felt towards his mother.
The first soliloquy also revealed Hamlet’s disgust with the union between the queen and her brother-in-law. He remarked, “O, most wicked speed, to post/ With such dexterity to incestuous sheets” (I. ii. 161-162). In Act 1 Scene 5, Hamlet learns from the spirit of his father that he was murdered by King Claudius. As a result, Hamlet was shocked over the revelation. The second soliloquy revealed that Hamlet was initially confused over what he learned, but eventually it became clear to him and he became determined to avenge his father’s murder. His plan for revenge became evident when he wrote, “So, uncle, there you are.
Now to my word. / It is ‘adieu, adieu, remember me. ’/ I have sworn’t. ” (I. v. 117-119). In the third soliloquy in Act 2 Scene 2, Hamlet’s spiritual crisis officially begins. He struggles with himself and questions his inability to take action. He compared himself to the player, who was effortlessly able to evoke feelings towards individuals who did not mean anything to him. Hamlet asked himself, “What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,/ That he should weep for her? ” (II. ii. 586-587). Hamlet finds himself unable to carry out his plan. He described himself as “Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,/ And can say nothing” (II. i. 595-596).
He even asked himself, “Am I a coward? ” as he was doubtful of his ability for revenge (II. ii. 598). However, by the end of the soliloquy, Hamlet regains his resolve and determination to carry out his plan. He decided to make King Claudius watch a play which features a plot similar to his father’ murder. Hamlet said, “The play’s the thing/ Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” (II. ii. 633-634). The question of uncertainty continues to haunt Hamlet in Act 3 Scene 1. In the fourth soliloquy, Hamlet speaks about death, as he contemplates about whether or not he would commit suicide.
Just like in the previous soliloquy, Hamlet appears to be uncertain of himself, as he asks the question “To be or not to be” (III. i. 64). This is proof of how his spiritual crisis drags on; he again seems weak and unsure, as he expressed willingness to give up his life due to his misfortunes. He mused, “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time” (III. i. 78). It was also in this soliloquy that Hamlet argued that everyone could take their life if it were not for their fear of the afterlife.
He remarked, “But that dread of something after death/…makes us rather bear those ills we have/ Than fly to others that we know not of? (III. i. 86, 89-90). Meanwhile, Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 2 again asserts his rage against his mother. Though Hamlet remains furious with Queen Gertrude, he manages to keep his fury under control. In that scene, Polonius was about to bring Hamlet to his mother’s bedchamber. In the soliloquy, Hamlet reveals what he would do during the encounter. He told himself, “let not ever/ The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom. / Let me be cruel, not unnatural” (III. ii. 426-428). Hamlet made a reference to Nero, who killed his own mother.
When he said, “I will speak daggers to her, but use none,” Hamlet meant to express his feelings towards his mother with all honesty (III. ii. 429). Both passages were reminders to himself not to hurt and kill his mother, despite his wrath. The issue of Hamlet’s inability for revenge again becomes apparent in his soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 3. He was supposed to kill King Claudius, but he stops himself because he did not want to end the king’s life while he was praying. In the said soliloquy, Hamlet justified his inaction by claiming he would not kill the king in the act of confession, for the murder will only guarantee a place for him in heaven.
Hamlet asked and answered himself, “am I then revenged/ To take him in the purging of his soul,/ When he is fit and seasoned for his passage? / No” (III. iii. 89-92). In the end, Hamlet postpones his revenge and plans to kill the king when he is in the act of sinning. In the seventh key soliloquy found in Act 4 Scene 4, it was evident that Hamlet’s spiritual crisis was still ongoing. After the Ghost appeared before him, Hamlet vowed to avenge his father’s murder. However, he continually delayed the revenge. He was also always burdened with uncertainty, despite the fact that his reasons for revenge were justifiable.
This soliloquy was another expression of his failure to carry out the king’s murder. Hamlet mused, “I do not know/ Why yet I live to say ‘This thing’s to do,’/Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means/ To do ’t” (IV. iv. 46-49). It was also in this soliloquy where Hamlet reaches a resolution before his death. By the end, he exclaimed, “O, from this time forth/ My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth! ” (IV. iv. 68-69). Before the play was finished, Hamlet was finally able to avenge his father’s death. His spiritual crisis finally ended.
Through these seven soliloquies in “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”, the reader was able to trace the development of Hamlet’s spiritual crisis. The crisis was rooted in his wrath towards his mother and uncle, only to be replaced with a hunger for revenge. The crisis began when he sought to kill Claudius, but he delayed this task in several instances. The crisis ended when he finally had the courage to avenge his father’s death. Indeed, the soliloquies were instrumental in helping the reader discern Hamlet’s personal struggle.