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Analysis of Hamlet in Act 1

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Introduction

´╗┐Hamlet?s first Soliloquy (I.2.129-159): Purpose: Shakespeare uses soliloquy so Hamlet can share with the audience feelings he could not voice in public. Overall Structure: The verse starts and stops, punctuated by expression of pain and confusion. The disjointed rhythm and dislocated progress of Hamlet?s thoughts conveys to us his inner turmoil. Hamlet's thoughts are not fluent; he often interrupts himself with his own expressive comments, as evident in the lines: ?That it should come to this - But two months dead, nay not so much, not two-? (I.2.137). Analysis: ?O, that this too too solid flesh would melt?. (I.2.129) - We start off with a whimper: he's moaning about how depressed he is over his father's death and mom's remarriage, and wishing that his ?flesh? would ?melt? - i.e., that he'd die. The duplication of ?too? intensifies Hamlet's feelings of regret. Textual Note: Some modern editions of the play read ?sullied flesh? instead of ?solid flesh.? (I.2.129). ?Sullied flesh? - suggests that Hamlet feels that he personally has been soiled, stained, or contaminated by his mother's incestuous relationship with his murderous uncle. Given how he seems to feel about sex, we'd buy that. ?melt, / Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew.?(I.2.130) - He wishes that his physical self might just cease to exist. He complains that his religion prohibits suicide and claims that he would sooner die than continue watching his mother engage in her vile incest. ...read more.

Middle

?Oh most wicked speed, to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheet;? (I.2.156-7) - The intensity of Hamlet?s disgust here underlines how impossible he finds it to come to terms with the incestuous union of his uncle and his mother and the indecent haste of his mother?s re-marriage. Hissing sibilants [The audience can see the actor playing Hamlet, spitting these words out in his anger] convey the young man?s nausea as, fascinated by intense disgust, he imagines his mother and his uncle in bed together. ?But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue? (I.2.159) - Hamlet feels bound to suffer in silence. For the audience, Hamlet?s words are ironic. They know a Ghost, resembling his father and dressed in steel, is haunting the castle. Even knowing nothing of the conventions of revenge tragedy, the audience would realise that Hamlet will not be permitted simply to suffer. [NB: ?break my heart? ? i.e. with unuttered grief. The heart was thought to be kept in place by ligaments or tendons (the heart-strings) which might snap under the pressure of great emotion.] First glimpse of Hamlets' shattered opinion of women, showing a particular obsession with what he perceives to be a connection between female sexuality and moral corruption, as suggested when Hamlet states, ?Frailty, thy name is woman.? This motif of misogyny occurs only sporadically throughout the play, but it is an important inhibiting factor in Hamlet's relationship with Ophelia and with his mother, Gertrude. ...read more.

Conclusion

he must seek revenge, Hamlet quickly acknowledges his duty as a son: ?I'll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past... And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book and volume of my brain, Unmixed with baser matter.? Act 1, scene v (99-104) Hamlet decides with determination that he will ?wipe away? all of his memories of ?youth?, and all ?pressures past? so that the ghost's ?commandment? to seek revenge would be his only focus, without the distraction of ?baser matter?. Hamlet's duty as a son is shown clearly at this point where he accepts the ghost's words, be it from fear or loyalty, and he appears to decide that he must fulfil his duty and kill Claudius. However, Hamlet's duty to the monarchy and his role in society are in direct conflict with his duty as a son. Hamlet's duty to the monarchy is to protect the King and his role in society as a Prince is to ensure stability in the kingdom. If Hamlet were to kill Claudius he would fulfil his duties as a son but society would view his actions as betraying society and the monarchy. He would be acting against his own socially enforced values and in the opinion of society, and perhaps in his own mind, he would be committing the highest act of treachery. This is very important with respect to Hamlet's indecision and resulting isolation. ...read more.

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