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Do you agree with the statement 'Without the soliloquies we have little knowledge of Hamlet's state of mind'?

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Introduction

Do you agree with the statement 'Without the soliloquies we have little knowledge of Hamlet's state of mind'? Hamlet's soliloquies are a direct insight into his thoughts; they give us a greater understanding of his mental state and his motives, Shakespeare uses them to great effect by giving the audience a direct connection with Hamlet and thereby heightening our awareness of his growing unease and inner torment. Hamlet's character during the beginning of the play is one of virtue and integrity, fearing the consequences of the task put upon him by his father, and questioning the moral integrity of said task. We witness his search for flaws in the King's request and the anguish he suffers as a result of the debate between upholding his father's honour and acting according to his own conscience. As the play progresses, Hamlet becomes increasingly perplexed and introverted, whilst displaying an entirely different persona to all but Horatio, who we come to realize is the only character he regards as an ally. Hamlet's soliloquies are not vital to our understanding of his mental disquiet, it is clear from his actions that he is disturbed, however they do make us aware of his internal conflicts in a far more defined way, changing our interpretation of his "madness", than his behaviour does. ...read more.

Middle

further on in the play that he must be deeply wounded and Claudius' request that he stay in Elsinore must have angered him and added to his emotional turmoil at having to "hold [his] tongue". Hamlet's soliloquies can, at times, be misleading. After conversing with his father's ghost, he announces that he will "wipe away all trivial fond records...and thy commandment all alone shall live within the book and volume of my brain...I have sworn't" but he later alters between definitively deciding to murder Claudius and refraining from doing it when the opportunity arises. He procrastinates over the act of committing regicide, and tortures himself with thoughts of the moral invalidity of taking vengeance. When Hamlet eventually does act with the intention of murdering Claudius, he is frantic and not in control of his thoughts. His frustration regarding his personal trauma at having lost a mother and his disinclination towards action manifests itself in a frantic attack, an action entirely the opposite to his regular analytical thought process. However, in other instances, without the soliloquies we would have far less doubt of Hamlet's madness. When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive, Hamlet openly considers the value of universal life. He also expresses the longing to return to dust; a precursor of his later soliloquy where he contemplates the same idea. ...read more.

Conclusion

Being the only release of his true feelings, they supply the audience with Hamlet's own experience of the tragedy and his response to the other characters. Hamlet's greatest problem is overcoming his inability to act without careful scrutiny of a situation- he tells Horatio that he will act "insane", yet at several instances in the play we are forced to question the authenticity of his "act", we are never entirely sure if his madness is intentional or feigned, despite periodically hearing his innermost thoughts. Although Hamlet is the 'hero' figure of the play, the persistent interrogation of his own self disclose more about him than his interaction with the other characters- his need to "hold my tongue", coupled with Denmark being a "prison" verify his bitterness at having to keep his feelings secret. This need for his sentiments to remain suppressed inside him leads to our more sensitive awareness of Hamlet's predicament and the reason behind his actions. Without the soliloquies, the plot of the play would still be the same, as would Hamlet's actions (assuming what is said in the soliloquies was still thought by Hamlet but not disclosed to the audience), but our perception of the human element of Hamlet's actions, and our ability to understand his state of mind would suffer. ...read more.

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