The Soliloquies of Hamlet
Shakespeare certainly makes extensive use of the wordplay technique called a soliloquy with the character of Hamlet, his protagonist in the tragic drama of the same name. Hopefully this essay will enlighten the reader on the subject of Hamlet’s soliloquies.
Mary Z. Maher’s “An Actor Works at Connecting with His Audience” gives an interview with renowned actor Ben Kingsley, who tells how a soliloquy enables the actor on stage to connect most closely with the audience. Is this the reason why the dramatist used so many soliloquies?
They were so close they were almost hanging off my nose, and I thought that if we didn’t allow ourselves to connect with them we would lose out. There was so much energy pouring in from the audience. It is like tennis. The ball goes out to them and they react and then the ball goes back to the actor. But it also includes them, the essence of the play moves through the actors like a flame, a blazing torch which is passed around. You had to hand it back to the audience, but very delicately [. . .]. (58)
The first soliloquy, or “act of talking to oneself, whether silently or aloud” (Abrams 289), occurs when the hero is left alone after the royal social gathering in the room of state in the castle of Elsinore. He is dejected by the “o’erhasty marriage” of his mother to his uncle less than two months after the funeral of Hamlet’s father (Gordon 128). His first soliloquy emphasizes the frailty of women – an obvious reference to his mother’s hasty and incestuous marriage to her husband’s brother:
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month--
Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!--
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears