Soliloquy Essay - Theatre and Language in the Soliloquies of Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Theatre and Language in the Soliloquies of Hamlet


The first Folio is prefaced with an address to the reader to "Read him again and again". In terms of words and action, Hamlet is the most self conscious play about its own theatricality. Words and actions throughout the play are inextricably linked, as is the notion of "playing" a part.

From the outset of the play we see evidence of the external show compared with the underlying reality. In Act One, Hamlet's speech to Gertrude (Nay seems...etc) shows us the Prince talking about actions that a man "might play" and also about what is "inside" him which "passes show". (NB "Action" in Elizabethan definition meant "acting")

Throughout the play we see inner reality beneath the
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Hamlet "takes the audience on" and there is real interaction between him and them.



Where are they in the text?

"O that this too too sullied flesh.." (after Mother's plea)

"O all you hosts of heaven.." ( after the ghost)

"O what a rogue and peasant slave am I.." (after Phyrrus speech)

"To be, or not to be.." (beginning nunnery scene)

"Tis now the very witching time of night..."(after mousetrap)

"Now might I do it pat..." (Claudius at prayer)

"How all occasions do inform against me..."( on the way to England. Fort.'s army)

There are no others in the last part of the play after he returns from England because the nature of the relationship between Hamlet and the audience has changed and he is different, and more assured of his actions.



The soliloquies divide into three pairs and one "commentary" which refers to each sentiment in the pairs, as follows:

1 & 2 are constructed round the ideas of memory of the past

3 & 4 are the present situation and his conscience

5 & 6 are his future intentions to kill and extract the vengeance.

7 draws threads from all the others

The first pair

"Solid flesh" is his memory & ability to remember the past, describing "that within". It ends with a basic theatrical event, the entrance of many people and his "break my heart for I must hold my tongue" Tense is past, remembering…

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