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Which, of Hamlet's seven main soliloquies, is most important in the development of both...

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catfood | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 7, 2007 at 11:21 PM via web

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Which, of Hamlet's seven main soliloquies, is most important in the development of both the character of Hamlet and plot?

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted April 8, 2007 at 5:55 AM (Answer #1)

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In my opinion, Hamlet's most important soliloquy in terms of character and plot development is in Act 3.1.64-99.

In these verses lie the most imporatant philosophical and moral quandries with which Hamlet (and indeed, humanity) struggles: what is the point of living? Of being? Is it better to endure the hard times, knowing that there is no end to hard times or end life yourself? Why do we struggle with conscience (and consciousness?)

As Hamlet discovers, there will be no easy, or even satisfactory, answers to any of his questions. He determines his character, and the unfolding of the plot, by wrestling with each one of these dilemmas.

Hamlet's internal turmoil has resonated with playgoers and readers for centuries. Some of the most familiar quotations in all of Shakespeare are found here: "To be or not to be -- that is the question"; "To die, to sleep --/To sleep perchance to dream"; " when we have shuffled off this immortal coil";"conscience doth make cowards of us all."

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angelacress | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted April 9, 2007 at 12:20 AM (Answer #2)

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The soliloquy located in Act II Scene ii , lines 287-289 Hamlet discusses (with Rosencrantz) his increasingly dismal feelings toward the human race. The "what a piece of work is man" soliloquy is, in my opinion, the most profound, though not necessarily the most well recognized, of the seven major speeches.

Hamlet is essentially building up an elaborate and glorified picture of the earth and humanity before declaring it all merely a “quintessence of dust.” He examines the earth, the air, and the sun, and rejects them as “a sterile promontory” and “a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.” He then describes human beings from several perspectives, each one adding to his glorification of them. Human beings’ reason is noble, their faculties infinite, their forms and movements fast and admirable, their actions angelic, and their understanding godlike. But, to Hamlet, humankind is merely dust. This motif, an expression of his obsession with the physicality of death, recurs throughout the play, reaching its height in his speech over Yorick’s skull.

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elatekate | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 11, 2008 at 10:24 AM (Answer #3)

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im my opinion it is his 7th. it ties the whole play together. its hard to put a "most important" mark on something like that though

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