Compare the two soliloquies in the play Hamlet: 1) Act 1, Scene 2: "O, this too too solid flesh would melt," (lines 131-161)                                    ...

Compare the two soliloquies in the play Hamlet:

1) Act 1, Scene 2: "O, this too too solid flesh would melt," (lines 131-161)


2) Act 3, Scene 1: "To be, or not to be; that is the question:" (lines 64-98).

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first soliloquy, in Act 1, Scene 2, is characterized by brokenness, short sentences, and exclamations—"Oh God! God!"—which reflect the tortured state of Hamlet's mind. He mourns the fact that "the Everlasting . . . fix'd his canon 'gainst self-slaughter," as the world now seems "flat and unprofitable" to Hamlet, who is feeling suicidal. He bemoans the fact that "so excellent a king" as his father has been apparently forgotten by his mother within "a little month, or ere those shoes were old/With which she follow'd my poor father's body." "O, God!" he repeats several times throughout the soliloquy, and he also breaks off to curse "Fie on't! ah fie!" and to declare, "Frailty, thy name is woman!" Hamlet is here extremely agitated and distressed, and he declares that his uncle is "no more like my father/Than I to Hercules." He concludes by declaring that "it cannot come to good" but vows that "I must hold my tongue."

The second soliloquy in the poem is altogether more measured, lacking the broken sentences and exhortations that pepper the first one. Here, Hamlet is in a contemplative mood, pondering "whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer/The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune/Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them." Far from his earlier statement that God's opposition to suicide left it out of the question, a much more serious Hamlet here lingers on the concept of how it would be "To die: to sleep"—this is repeated twice for emphasis. Now, death is "a consummation devoutly to be wish'd," but Hamlet's concerns are now more personal: he fears "what dreams may come" to a man in the sleep of death. The "undiscover'd country" he fears may be no better than the pains he is suffering on earth, whereas in the first soliloquy he was sure that this earthly circumstance was, for him, the worst situation he could be in, and he resented being bound to it by morality. Now, Hamlet declares that "conscience . . . make[s] cowards of us all": he will not kill himself, not for moral reasons, but only because he fears it would be an even worse fate.

amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the soliloquy of Act 1, Scene 2, Hamlet laments the death of his father and is furious that his mother, Gertrude, has married Claudius so quickly. Hamlet compares the transition of kings, from his father to Claudius, as "Hyperion to a satyr," from a god to a lustful man. The fact that Hamlet thinks so highly of his father, perhaps exaggerated in his grief, makes Hamlet that much more upset that Claudius and Gertrude would betray old King Hamlet by marrying so soon. This soliloquy also establishes Hamlet's growing frustration with women in general. This is evidenced by his famous line, "Frailty, thy name is woman-" and this has something to do with Hamlet's indifferent attitude towards Ophelia, whom he supposedly loves. 

The overt connection between the two soliloquies is that they begin with the same thought: suicide. In the soliloquy of Act 1, Scene 2, Hamlet briefly considers suicide but immediately decides against it because such a thing is a sin in the eyes of God (the Everlasting): 

O that this too too solid flesh would melt,

Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,

Or that the Everlasting had not fixed

His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! (I.ii.132-35) 

But in Act 3, Scene 1, Hamlet gets much more philosophical and really considers the pros and cons of suicide or going through with his revenge. In the first soliloquy, Hamlet wished he could commit suicide to get out of his lamentable situation. But in this soliloquy, he determines that suicide is a worse fate than his current situation because death is unknown. In other words, it is better to face known troubles than to chance the unknown: 

                    Who would these fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscoverd country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have 

Than to fly to others that we know not of? (III.i.83-89)