Shakespeares Play The Tragedy Of Hamlet English Literature Essay

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William Shakespeare's play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark gives us the character Hamlet, who illustrates man's search for a true identity. Constructed may it be, through his soliloquies, a complete character. With Hamlet's character alone on stage, his ideas and feelings can be portrayed to the audience without having to be modified to play a speaking role designed to influence another character within the play. Through these soliloquies we see how Hamlet's thoughts change over time.

The first opportunity to observe the internal character values of the prince come from his first soliloquy in which it reveals how Hamlet feels toward Claudius and Gertrude as well as himself. Hamlet clearly had feeling of disgust with these two characters when he says:

"With such dexterity to incestuous sheets" (Hamlet act I, scene ii).

The reasons for Hamlet's insults are that he does not understand why Gertrude married Claudius so hastily, and that upsets him. In the play Hamlet hates Claudius and morns still over his late father; therefore he doesn't want Claudius in his father's position. Hamlet's first soliloquy also gives insight to how he handles the stressful situation emotionally, and does so by wishing suicide were not a sin when he says:

"Or that the Everlasting has not fixed/ His canon 'gainst <self-slaughter> O God, O God," (Hamlet Act I, Scene ii).

Hamlet, torn asunder, internally, by the events presented to him and rather than facing them head on without delay he would much rather escape the scenario altogether. This longing for an easy way out gives us the basis of Hamlet's character.

When introduced to the driving conflict in the play, that is, the news from the ghost of King Hamlet that Claudius had murdered the king, prince Hamlet is justly outraged. Hamlet tells himself he will think of nothing but revenge:

"Yea, from the table of my memory

I'll wipe away all trivial, fond records,

All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,

That youth and observation copied there,

And thy commandment all alone shall live

Within the book and volume of my brain,

Unmixed with baser matter. Yes, by heaven!"

(Hamlet Act I, Scene V)

Here Hamlet swears to God and heaven his swift and terrible revenge. Hamlet's previously viewed character trait of conflict avoidance is now replaced by raw emotion and drive to accomplish a very specific goal, his anger has a much more powerful force behind it than Claudius sleeping with his mother. Notable however, is that the momentum of his rage does not stay preserved; Hamlet delays his plans of vengeance. His reasoning is his uncertainty of Claudius' guilt. The prince's habit of procrastination mirrors his earlier trait of conflict avoidance by longing for death.

Further in the play Hamlet has designed a play that will mirror his father's murder in order to see Claudius' reaction. After Hamlet observes the play, the actor successfully moves himself to tears and continues acting Hamlet has this to say as a soliloquy:

"O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!

Is it not monstrous that this player here,

But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,

Could force his soul so to his own conceit

That from her working all his visage wan'd;

Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,

A broken voice, and his whole function suiting

With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!

For Hecuba?

What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,

That he should weep for her?"(Hamlet act 2, scene 2)

Here Hamlet, outraged, on a personal level that the actor is his play can become so impassioned during his performance without falling apart as Hamlet would. This especially bothers Hamlet that the actor does this in a fake setting suggesting that the actor is more passionate over a fantasy then Hamlet ever is over reality (R. W. Dent 83). This displays Hamlet's character as frustrated with his own incompetence towards his emotions. It also shows the audience that since this frustration takes place, Hamlet has feelings of disgust with himself and envious over the passion displayed by the actor.

Hamlet's and arguably Shakespeare's most famous soliloquy occurs in an unusual circumstance that beg to question whether or not his lines are a soliloquy at all:

"To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

[…] With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!

The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remember'd." (Hamlet Act III Scene I)

As analyzed in the article The To Be or Not To Be Speech Hamlet's soliloquy here has a stark contrast to his other soliloquies as he makes it very impersonal. In all of his other speeches, first-person singular pronouns are used at least every four lines and in act II, scene II thirty-six are used in only fifty-nine lines; in the 'to be' speech none are used until the mention of Ophelia (Hirsh 35). One possible reason for this stark change in speaking manner could be proof that Hamlet becomes increasingly wise with his actions at this part of the play. Hamlet frequently speaks of his personal grievances but leaves them out because he knows that his enemies know his location and that the walls may have ears. His words are carefully chosen to lead eavesdroppers to particular conclusions about what is on his mind (Hirsh 11). Since there is a possible and predicted audience within the play this may not be a true soliloquy but Hamlet's behavior in handling this situation and the path he leads eavesdroppers to believe about him show tremendous change in his ability to hone in on his goal.

The prince of Denmark has made observable character changes throughout the play that the audience can see both plain as day and through critical thinking. Hamlet has abandoned his inability to commit to a task and has done so with great cunning.