IB English SL

IOC First Draft

Internal Conflict within Hamlet through the first soliloquy

The extract from line 129-159, Act 1 Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, forms to be the first soliloquy of the drama and therefore appears in the beginning of the play. A soliloquy is a literary technique where the character is left alone on the stage and is able to express his thoughts clearly and directly. This technique enhances the text and succinctly yet powerfully exposes the mental compositions of the character, as in this soliloquy, Hamlet’s conflict over his contemplation of suicide. In addition to his internal conflicts, the soliloquy highlights important relationships such as between Hamlet, Gertrude and Claudius as well as bringing out the cultural setting of the drama, which consists of differences between the medieval and the renaissance era.

This is the first soliloquy of Hamlet in the drama, and is therefore an essential tool in the introduction of Hamlet’s character as well as foreshadowing certain important themes which are going to be portrayed as the drama progresses. Since dramas did not include any narrators, soliloquies were the medium through which the writer could show insight into a character’s mind. Through the first soliloquy, Shakespeare has shown Hamlet’s contemplative character, due to all the thinking he does, such as thoughts about suicide and its consequences based on religious ideals. The first soliloquy also provides an insight into Hamlet’s disturbed mental condition, which is primarily a result of his father’s death and his mother’s remarriage to Claudius.

The cultural setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is well highlighted in the extract, since this soliloquy elucidates one of the major themes of Hamlet, i.e. Death and more specifically ‘Suicide’. Since Hamlet was written during a period of transition from the medieval era to the renaissance era, there existed cultural conflict in everyone’s mind as to what was right and wrong. This cultural conflict forms to be an important factor causing internal conflict in Hamlet’s mind since it brings up confusion as to whether Hamlet is a Medieval or a Renaissance prince. The cultural conflict over Suicide existed because Christianity as a religion considered suicide a dreadful sin, as it can be seen in the extract “that the Everlasting had not fixed His canon 'gainst self-slaughter. O God, God”. Whereas the Renaissance ideals suggested that if a ‘renaissance man’ was living an undignified and shameful life, he could commit suicide. Because of these two contrasting ideals, there existed turmoil in Hamlet’s mind as to whether he should commit suicide or not, since he was so outraged that he could not see any other outcome to his undignified life other than death.

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The theme of Death and Suicide can be seen in the first line of the soliloquy, where Hamlet suggests “O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew”. It can be seen that Hamlet wanted his body to fade away because he was going through a very painful phase in his life. His thoughts about suicide highlight another important aspect of the drama, i.e. Hamlet’s Melancholia. This extreme depression and sadness which was present within Hamlet was making him think that his life is “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable”. It can be observed ...

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