By Vivi Vargas
English, Mr. Neil
November 24, 2009
Shakespeare’s theatrical masterpieces often contain soliloquies, in which the reader receives an earnest view of a character’s state of mind and motivation, or lack thereof. Aside from revealing character, soliloquies also serve to advance the plot and create atmosphere. Hamlet, is noexception; the famous soliloquies that it holds give insight of vital importance to the comprehension of the play as a whole. However, the soliloquies in 3.2 and 3.3 encompass both distinct and similar themes, which makes them extremely comparable and contrastable.
One of the recurrent themes in soliloquies five and six, but also throughout the entire play is Hamlet’s uncertainty when itcomes to making decisions. In both soliloquies, the main character rides an emotional rollercoaster in which he turns from a man of passion, into a man of reason; from a man of action, into one of doubt. In the fifth soliloquy, he states, “…now I could drink hot blood, / And do such bitter business as the day / Would quake to look on.” (3.2, 422-445) After this passionate acclaim, he later fallsback into his habitual inaction, “I will speak daggers to her, but use none;” (3.2, 429). In the sixth soliloquy, there is a similar pattern, Hamlet is about to kill Claudius, his sword is drawn, but then he repents by saying,
“But in our circumstance and course of thought,
'Tis heavy with him: and am I then revenged,
To take him in the purging of his soul,When he is fit and season'd for his passage?
The theme of uncertainty in Hamlet’s actions is evident, for in both cases, his soul commands him to act on impulse, but his conscience overrides him until the final scene, when it is to late to save himself and everyone around him.
Another theme that is present in both soliloquies is the decay ofthe state. In the soliloquy of Act 3 Scene 2, Hamlet asserts,
“…soft! now to my mother.
O, heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom:
Let me be cruel, not unnatural:”
He is exceptionally angry with his mother, but promises himself he will not harm her. While Hamlet witnesses howeverything around him is deteriorating: his country, his purpose in life, his state of mind, he wonders why Gertrude seems completely unaffected by the situation, but decides he must restrain his impulses. In contrast, the soliloquy in 3.3 states,
“Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent:
When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
Or in the incestuouspleasure of his bed;
At gaming, swearing, or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in't;
Then trip him”
Hamlet knows that Claudius, despite his alleged repentance with God, will inevitably become corrupt again. He is befuddled; he is unable to understand how Gertrude, who probably should have been the most vulnerable toemotional corruption due to the recent tragedies, remains unaltered, while Claudius, who is evidently corrupt in every sense of the word, seems to be in the grace of God. The decay of the state is a theme that is represented in each of these soliloquies through different forms of human corruption, or lack thereof.
Perhaps the most important and central theme in Hamlet is the value of revenge. Theentire play gravitates around the character’s desire yet indecision to act upon it. Both soliloquies heavily deal with this theme, which makes them comparable. In the fifth soliloquy, Hamlet declares, “My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites, /
How in my words soever she be shent, / To give them seals never, my soul, consent!” (3.2, 430-432). The protagonist wants to harm his mother, for...