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What does the audience learn from Hamlet's first soliloquy?

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Introduction

What does the audience learn from Hamlet's first soliloquy? (Act 1, Scene 2) Hamlet's first soliloquy serves to inform the audience of a variety of points, most notably his perception of the past events. The function of this is to warn the audience of the tensions that may arise as a result of his insights. The audience immediately learns of Hamlet's lack of self-worth through the opening lines of his soliloquy. He wishes his "flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew" and laments God's forbiddance of suicide. The relevance of this quote stands in creating an immediate divide between Hamlet and Claudius. The lack of confidence shown in the first quote contrasts hugely with that of his uncle, who instead of focusing on his emotions, directs his energy towards resent for another, the King of Norway, calling him "impotent and bed-rid". Whilst Hamlet appears introverted and tender, his uncle appears extroverted and full of ambition, going so far as to condemn Hamlet for "unmanly grief". ...read more.

Middle

The similarities between 'eternity' and 'everlasting', as well as Hamlet's extended metaphor of nature representing the world could be Shakespeare's way of causing the audience to note the contrast in their perceptions of both. Whilst Gertrude talks lightly of the two, thinking life and death as a common process, Hamlet rejects her view by refusing to accept that they should forget his father so soon, most powerfully shown by the quote "frailty, thy name is woman". In this case, Hamlet's first soliloquy shows the audience that both of his parents are strongly polarised in their values. Contrasts are not only established through cross-references in the character's speech, but in Hamlet's soliloquy itself. "Solid flesh" is contrasted with "dew"; "rank and gross" juxtaposed with "nature" (which is normally associated with peace and beauty); "Hyperion" with "satyr" and "I" (Hamlet) compared with "Hercules". The constant reoccurrence of contrasts serve to show the audience the extent to which Hamlet feels the natural order of the world has been reversed. ...read more.

Conclusion

The last point to note when considering Shakespeare's use of time is what the audience learn from the use of foreshadowing. In the final two lines of his soliloquy, Hamlet says "It is not, nor it cannot come to good. But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue." It is possible to suggest that Shakespeare has used dramatic irony here, for the audience will know of the presence of his father's ghost from the previous scene, and will therefore be able to predict from these final two lines that Hamlet will almost certainly not be able to 'hold his tongue', which in turn suggests that his prediction that no good will come of the marriage is very much true. In conclusion, the audience learn a huge amount from Hamlet's first soliloquy. It acts as an introduction for the tensions that may arise later on in the play by immediately setting himself aside from his mother and uncle, but also gives the audience an insight into the events that occurred prior to this, setting the scene for the events that follow. ...read more.

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