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In his soliloquy in Act II, Scene 2, “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I”, what...

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lawlcatz19 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 28, 2011 at 9:41 AM via web

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In his soliloquy in Act II, Scene 2, “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I”, what are Hamlet's specific accusations about himself?

William Shakespeare's Hamlet

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted July 28, 2011 at 10:17 AM (Answer #1)

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In Act Two, Scene Two, Hamlet specifically questions himself:

Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain?

When he asks who calls him villain, he is saying none call me villain, meaning none think of him as dangerous. Hamlet is critical of himself in that he confesses that he feels like a coward.

Hamlet is using ridicule in calling himself "most brave." He is using sarcasm, meaning that he is not brave at all:

Why, what an ass I am! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murdered,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, release the content of my heart with
words, and fall down cursing like a very drab...

Clearly, Hamlet insults himself because he is ferocious only in words, but not in deed. He can talk a good deal, but, in actions, he is a coward. These are his own critical comments about himself.

Truly, Hamlet criticizes himself for not being able to act on his feelings. He claims to be in a dream-like state. He even states that he cannot stand up for his cause. Indeed, he admits that he is not fully passionate enough for his cause, which is to avenge his beloved father's death:

A dull and muddy-spirited rascal, shrink,
Like a dreamy fellow, not full of my cause,
And can’t say anything, no, not for a king
On whose kingdom and most dear life
Were all brought to nothing.

He confesses that he is no better than a "menial servant in the kitchen!" He does not act like a son, a prince. He is no more than a "rogue and peasant slave." He feels like a worthless, shiftless, coward. Hamlet is not his father's royal son. He considers himself a servant in his father's house because he has not stood up to his Uncle Claudius who murdered his regal father.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 28, 2011 at 10:51 AM (Answer #2)

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In this soliloquy of Act II, Scene 2, Hamlet reveals his flaw of hesitation.  He berates himself for not being more passionate in nature after noticing how an actor can generate more intense feeling on a stage than he can seem to do.

...What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech;
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.(2.2.516-522)

Hamlet berates himself for lacking courage,

Yet I,(560)
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause

And, he wonders if he is a coward since he cannot work up enough passion,

And can say nothing; no, not for a king

....Am I a coward? (2.2.537-538)

As he does repeatedly, Hamlet urges himself to take action--"About my brain"; he berates himself,

O, vengeance!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words
And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
A scullion! Fie upon't! Foh!
About, my brain! (577-583)

Hamlet accuses himself of inaction and scolds himself.  He then decides to use the players in a play that will reveal Claudius's actions and cause the king to reveal his guilt when he sees his murderous action played upon the stage.

This soliloquy is one that reveals the inner torment of Hamlet.  In self-conflict, Hamlet derides himself for his hesitation, then another part of his nature continues to reason through his feelings and be cautious about action.  Nevertheless, it is always the soliloquys of Hamlet which move the plot, and this third soliloquy advances the plot as Hamlet devises a way to test Claudius.

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