- Published: September 8, 2022
- Updated: September 8, 2022
- Language: English
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The Troubled Prince: An Analysis of Hamlet “ To be, or not to be: That is the question”(3. 1. 58). This is probably the most famous quote in all of Shakespearean literature and was uttered by the main character, Hamlet, of the play “ Hamlet” written by Shakespeare. It demonstrates his instability and suicidal thoughts. Throughout the play he comes off as a very unpredictable and complex character. He makes many rash decisions, but at the same time often takes a lot of time to contemplate many of his choices.
Through Hamlet’s language and voice, we can examine what type of character Shakespeare created. Hamlet acts differently towards people in contrast to his actual thoughts, which are projected through his soliloquies. Due to the insanity caused by his father’s death, Hamlet becomes a very complex and surprising character, which is apparent through Hamlet’s actions and words. The feelings presented by Hamlet in his soliloquies gives insight into his forever-troubled mind. A soliloquy is when a character in a play says out loud what they are thinking and nobody in the room can hear it.
Throughout this story, the majority of the soliloquies were said by Hamlet, who used them to project his deep emotions and feelings that would have never been spoken to other characters. However, they also demonstrated his insanity. The first of these was near the beginning of the story. Hamlet’s father has just died and his uncle has just married his mother, there is much troubling him. Hamlet says, “ O that this too too solid flesh would melt” in the first line of his first soliloquy (1. 2. 129). This immediately shows how dramatic a character Hamlet is and is an example of how he often uses figurative language to present his emotions.
In the same soliloquy he says how his father love his mother so much he prevented the “ winds of heaven” from blowing on her too hard (1. 2. 144). In his most famous soliloquy he begins with, “ to be, or not to be” he ironically uses the most basic words to represent his actual consideration of ending his life (3. 1. 58). This is unexpected as he usually favors imagery in his soliloquies to dramatize his feelings. For example, in the rest of the soliloquy he uses metaphors to say perhaps he should, “ take arms against” a “ sea of trouble” instead of killing himself (3. 1. 65).
Perhaps the reason for lack of imagery to describe a terrible thing such as suicide is his insanity and indecisiveness. Though he plays with the idea of suicide, he is also fearful of it and cannot fully describe it with his normal enthusiastic imagery. In the soliloquy where he envisions himself murdering Claudius, Hamlet’s insanity is the most apparent. This time he again uses simile to describe how his father was “ as flush as May” in his sins when Cladius killed the King (3. 3. 82). He also goes on to envision the murder and how he will kill Claudius, when he is sleeping, or gambling or in the “ incestuous pleasure of his bed” (3. . 91). Hamlet is obsessing over murdering Claudius, but at the same time procrastinating the murder because he wants it to be at the perfect time, such as when Claudius is most sinful. This procrastination is slowly driving him insane as shown in this soliloquy. In his soliloquies Hamlet frequently associates metaphors and similes and it is important to realize the progression of Hamlet’s instability as well as his surprising actions and complex thoughts presented through these soliloquies.
The manner in which Hamlet conveys himself and his emotions to other people help show another dimension of his character —his little trust in people. While in conversation with other people, Hamlet hides his true emotions, he does not ever reveal to anyone what his plan was with Claudius. Additionally, Hamlet is often witty, sarcastic and a “ deviant,” especially compared to the formal tone most other characters have (Blankenship). For example when Claudius asks why he is so gloomy, he sarcastically responds, “ Not so, my lord. I am too much i’ th’ sun” (1. 2. 7). Another example is when he tells Ophelia to “ Get thee to a nunnery” (3. 1. 125). Both of these show how he refuses to tell people how he really feels and would rather responds with biting sarcasm. Especially since, he supposedly loves Ophelia at one point but now rudely insults her. This is very surprising and demonstrates how confused he is about his emotions. Although he speaks in more prose to other people, there is definitely a sense of intellect with his words. He chooses better, more complicated words than most of the other characters in this play.
Shakespeare’s use of syntax in Hamlet’s abnormal sentence structure shows that Hamlet was well-educated and used sophisticated language: Hath op’d his ponderous and marble jaws To cast thee up again. What may this mean 680 That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel, Revisits thus the glimpses of the moon (1. 4. 36) Also, Hamlet often speaks in prose to common folk. For example, when he commands Guildenstern to play the pipe he says, “ Will you play upon this pipe? ”(3. 2. 180). Additionally, in Act I, Scene II, when he speaks to Horatio, a servant, he also talks in prose.
However, when he addresses a person of nobility, such as his mother he more frequently uses verse, “ A bloody deed- almost as bad, good mother: As kill a king, and marry with his brother”(3. 4. 29). in verse, as it represents a more formal, sophisticated version of speech. Additionally, the fact that his character uses verse represents his higher class because in all his plays Shakespeare usually has lower class characters speaking only prose and the nobility and higher class characters speaking in both prose and verse. Hamlet does what he needs to blend into different groups.
To the working-class, he talks in prose, and to the upper-class he talks in verse. He uses his language to assimilate into these different groups, and although they may trust him due to his adept use of language, he never trusts them. Hamlet’s complex and deep emotions can be traced to the tragic homicide of his father, and he projected these emotions through what he said and thought. Throughout the play Shakespeare shapes the character that is Hamlet. The reader can see into this character’s person through his thoughts, actions, and words.
The soliloquies represented Hamlet’s inner thoughts and feelings, ones that he refused to reveal to other characters to in the play and were often surprising. His day-to-day conversation with other characters revealed his sarcasm and distrust in all people. Together, the conversations and soliloquies show his mental instability and his debate with suicide. Ironically, in the end Hamlet never really has to answer his own question, “ To be, or not to be” (3. 1. 58), rather it is answered for him in the form of a poisoned dagger which determined that he indeed would not be (5. 2. 357).
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