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How does Shakespeare dramatise Hamlet’s character and state of mind in his Soliloquies?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare dramatise Hamlet's character and state of mind in his Soliloquies? Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' is set in Denmark. The country is still very much in a period of instability even thought it seems to be settling down. 'Valiant' King Hamlet defeated King Fortinbras of Norway and gained his land fairly. The audience is aware that King Hamlet died through the apparition of his ghost but we are not informed of the circumstances under which he died. After King Hamlet's death his wife Gertrude married his brother Claudius. The audience first encounters Hamlet in his first soliloquy (Act 1, Scene 2). We are aware that Hamlet has been mourning. Claudius even describes it as "'tis unmanly grief;' which is a very inconsiderate response to someone who is grieving. The audience can sense that there is a lot of tension between Claudius and Hamlet because Hamlet tends to talk only to his mother even when Claudius addresses him. In Hamlet's first soliloquy the audience sees the scope of Hamlet's grief, 'O that this too too solid flesh would melt, Thaw and resolve itself into dew' (1, 2, 129-130) Hamlet is contemplating suicide. Shakespeare repeats 'too' twice to show the resilience of Hamlet's body. ...read more.

Middle

Hamlet is a very intellectual and this allows Shakespeare to use an array of writers' techniques. 'With this slave's offal. Bloody, bawdy villain, Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindles Villain! O vengeance! ' (2, 2, 586-588) Hamlets frustration with himself boils over into self ridicule. There is a use of sibilance which evokes a hissing sound of a snake. This implies deceit, sin, temptation and also it could refer back to the snake that supposedly killed King Hamlet. It also reiterates the meaning of each word. It is like Hamlet is actually beating himself up. The usage of the 'b' sound produces a felling of something being hit. The usage of such negative language builds up like a volcano until Hamlet erupts with 'villain', the pause dose indicated that Hamlet will calm down, however he erupts again with 'O vengeance' yet after this the pause is used to calm Hamlet, slightly. There is also the timing of the meter involved, the second half of the first line 'bloody' etc uses 2 syllables but as the flogging increases so do the syllables 'trech-er-ous'. The use on enjambment shows continuous self loathing. Shakespeare uses this later to show Hamlet's line of thought. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shakespeare also allows Hamlet to slip back into his self loathing exhibited in his second soliloquy. Hamlet describes Fortinbras as 'divine prince' because he respects what Fortinbras is doing to avenge his father. 'Rightly to be... at stake' (4, 4, 55-58) shows that Hamlet still despises himself because he is very much aware that he has not take action. In each of his soliloquies Shakespeare laments Hamlet's inability to avenge his father's death. When Hamlet finally takes action it is because he is forced to, as a result of Claudius's plans. The soliloquies suggest that Hamlet is more of a scholar than a soldier. He would rather contemplate the metaphysical questions of life than fight for anything, even though the audience is aware that he is capable of fighting for what he believes in. In spite of this Hamlet is still able to retain some honour. Shakespeare uses the soliloquy as a source of meditation, introspection and the expression of emotions from his characters. Matthew Arnold even described soliloquies as 'The dialogue of the mind, with itself.' Yet in Hamlet Shakespeare uses his soliloquies to confirm to his audience what he already let them know; fulfilling at once the expectations of the audience and the demands of the dramatic art. Although each soliloquy takes a slightly different approach to Hamlet's problem, Hamlet's essence and character never changes. ...read more.

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