Compare the two solilquies of Hamlet in Act I, Scene 5 and Act 2, Scene 2.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Shakespeare's Hamlet, it is, ironically, the soliloquies to Hamlet that propel the drama and action of the play despite Hamlet's melancholic inertia.  For, each soliloquy represents Hamlet's internal meditations that do effect much of the drama. In Act I, Scene V, after Hamlet speaks with the ghost, his resolve is passionate:

...Remember thee?

Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat

In this distracted globe.  Remember thee?

Yea, from the table of my memory

I'll wipe away all trivial fond records...(1.5.95-99)

And, at the end of this soliloquy, Hamlet swears to his word.  However, between this scene and Act II, Scene 2, in which his next soliloquy appears, Hamlet has descended into a dark melancholy in which "Man delights me not, nor woman neither" (2.2.300).  However, after a nonsensical banter of words with Polonius and, then, conversation with the actors of the forthcoming play in which they agree to perform The Murder of Gondazo with the insertion of lines that Hamlet has provided, the Prince of Denmark is again alone with his own thoughts.  This time his soliloquy is a rebuke of his lack of action which he vowed to the ghost of his father.  Hamlet reflects upon the tears of the actor for a fictitious character--the passion he diplays even in a pretended situation.  Criticizing himself for his lack of passionate action for the very real death of his father, Hamlet calls himself "A dull and muddy-mettled rascal" (2.2.524), as well as a "coward."  He berates himself as being a man who would let people call him names because he is "pigeon-livered" and lacks the gall to summon up enough bitterness to act upon his father's murder.  But, after his self-rebuke, Hamlet again rouses himself as in the previous soliloquy. As he sits down, an idea forms itself from what he talked to the actors about--"the play's the thing":

...I'll have these players

Play something like the murder of my father

before mine uncle.  I'll observe his looks.

I'll tent him to the quick...

Out of my weakness and my melancholy,

As he [the devil] is very potent with such spirits,

Abuses me to damn me.  I'll have grounds

More relative than this...

Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king. (2.2.551-562)

Again, then, Hamlet demonstrates resolve, although in the second soliloquy he must first criticize himself for his inaction.  In addition, while Hamlet professes resolve as in the first soliloquy, this time it is with a distance as he has the players commit the actions, rather than he doing so.


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