Hamlet's First Three Soliloquies
Hamlet's words consistently attempt to translate abstract thought into
concrete understandable forms. The characters surrounding Hamlet
(except Horatio) never grasp Hamlet's leveled meanings, and he
constantly struggles with (yet sometimes manipulates) this
misunderstanding. On periodic occasions, Hamlet is left alone on
stage, able to express his thoughts-unmasked, pithy, direct, complete.
These occurrences comprise Hamlet's soliloquies, and each reveals
succinctly and powerfully Hamlet's state of mind as each soliloquy is
delivered throughout the play.
"O that this too too solid flesh would melt" is Hamlet's utterance of
requested suicide to initiate his first soliloquy. Suicide is only
unattainable for Hamlet in lieu of his intense personal piety: if he
commits suicide, he will surely lose salvation. However, Hamlet's
religious awe begs the question; why would Hamlet want to kill himself
anyway? Is Hamlet's life really overwhelmingly impounding,
horrifically unmanageable? After all, he is the prince of Denmark, a
title of honor and affluence coveted by surrounding characters.
The answer lies in an examination of Hamlet's character. Hamlet is
driven (especially at the inception of the play) by strict moral
sensibility. He strives to act in a morally correct manner in every
situation or dilemma. Furthermore, Hamlet feels akin or at least
feels a responsibility to guide and supervise his mother, Gertrude.
Both these character traits are under intense pressure in the context
of the opening soliloquy. Hamlet seeks to resolve Gertrude's actions
in his mind; he tries to associate them with some valid reasoning.
Hamlet desires to ascribe some intrinsic morality to Gertrude's
actions, but there is none, and this moral vacancy tears at Hamlet's
character until he wishes to die.
Hamlet's reasoning begins with an image of his father, a noble
character manifest in his duties as king and in his treatment of
Gertrude. "So excellent a king" and "so loving to my mother that he
might not beteem the winds of heaven visit her face to roughly,"
proclaims Hamlet. Opposing, Hamlet depicts his uncle as "no more like
my father than I to Hercules," not a noble character in the least.
The extensive disparity between his father and his uncle is incredibly
clear to Hamlet. This clarity poses the difficulties in establishing
Gertrude's purposes in marrying Claudius just two months after King
Hamlet's death; this act Hamlet cannot seem to resolve.
Hamlet decides, begrudgingly, that only lust could be motive for
Gertrude's heinous actions, lust derived from being a woman. This
answer is unsatisfactory for us as the audience and for Hamlet as
well, but Hamlet can discern no alternate explanation. Moreover,
Hamlet's censure of...