How do the soliloquies in Hamlet relate to one another?

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rishakespeare eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What the soliloquies all have in common is a juxtaposition between a harsh reality of an immoral world with his idealistic Christian reality.  

Each of his speeches, in one way or another, addresses two different kinds of realities.  On the one hand, the ideal world has a set of rules that all obey, and if they do not, they are punished.  

In the world of reality, people are liars and cheats, and often do get away with their immoral and duplicitous actions.

On the one hand, his Christian beliefs (it is doubtful that Old Hamlet shared Hamlet's Protestantism; if he did, the Ghost would not ask revenge but forgiveness) teach him not to seek revenge, but on the other hand, revenge is what he is told he must seek by a King and father who seems suspended in a ghostly purgatory of sorts.

On the one hand, the world is a rotten place, but on the other hand, there is much to love about it.  Hamlet is trapped between dual realities that he cannot reconcile.

Soliloquies: Act 1, scene 2; Act 2, scene 2; Act 3, scene 1; and Act 4, scene 4.

luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The soliloquies in Act 1, scene 2; Act 2, scene 2; Act 3, scene 1; and Act 4, scene 4, are Hamlet's major soliloquies.  They relate in that Hamlet is pondering his woes. 

  1. In the first one, he is lamenting his father's death and moreover, his mother's marriage to Claudius. 
  2. In the second one, he is expressing his frustration in himself for only talking about seeking vengeance and not doing anything yet, and he says he has to be sure the Ghost was telling the truth.  It is also here that he says he'll let the play that the players perform help him determine if Claudius truly is guilty
  3. In the third soliloquy, Hamlet expresses his general sadness and frustration with his life and his lack of action.
  4. The last one, in Act 4, Hamlet is still bemoaning his lack of action but determines that from this point on, he will be take action.
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the "To be or not to be" soliloquy, we hear again an echo of Hamlet's desire to kill himself from the soliloquy of "Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt" in Act One, scene two. In the first act, we learned that Hamlet wanted to die, but that God prohibited such an act.

In Act Three, scene one, Hamlet again speaks of living or die in the "To be or not to be" soliloquy. He believes that if he died, it would be as tranquil as sleeping—which is easily done, without worry or upset. However, the thing that stops Hamlet is the knowledge that no one knows what is on the other side of death. If it was a good thing, Hamlet thinks most people would opt to leave this life for a better one. However, no one can be sure what lies on the other side, and so people continue to put up with terrible lives—to be thrown about by fate or punished at the hands of someone hateful and/or brutal. In this speech, we learn Hamlet is in a very dark place, but fears that death may not be the release he hopes for.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy is typical of Hamlet's character. He can never seem to make up his mind about anything. In this soliloquy he begins by telling himself that death might be better than staying alive, but then he thinks of a reason why living might be preferable to dying. And he leaves the question unresolved. I think the same indesiciveness, the same irresoluteness, could be pointed out in all of his soliloquys. For instance, in the one beginning with "O what a rogue and peasant slave am I," he can't understand why he wants to act and knows he should act but keeps procrastinating. (The audience can't understand why, either.) He wonders whether he is a coward but then assures himself that no one would dare to provoke him.

alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Related question and answer topic: which of hamlet's soliloquies is most important?

ybrant6712 | Student
  • The first one in Act I.ii discusses his mother's over-hasty marriage and compares his father with his devious uncle Claudius.
  • The second soliloquy follows the revelation of his father's murder in Act I.v.
  • The third soliloquy speaks about Hamlet's inability to avenge his father's murder Act II.ii.
  • The next soliloquy is the most famous one in terms of Hamlet contemplating death instead of continually bearing the "arrows of outrageous fortune" and is in Act III.i.
  • This is followed by his desire to admonish his mother on her hasty marriage, which their religious beliefs calls incestuous, in Act III.ii.
  • Claudius narrowly escapes his death when praying and thus prevents an outraged conscience stricken Hamlet in Act III.iii from fulfilling his revenge duty.
  • It is the young Fortinbras who actually stirs the dormant thoughts in Hamlet into action in Act IV.iv.

This is the final soliloquy revealing Hamlet's state of mind, his nobility, which all reveal his angst and guilt linked with conscious and unconscious thoughts. Fate does exercise control on his moves and choices, making the reader sympathetic with Hamlet.

reshmirohith | Student
Hamlet's soliloquy's give us an insight into the character of Hamlet. All the soliloquy show his delaying attitude that ultimately leads to his own end. The most famous soliloquy in the play ' to be or not to be' reveals the tragic flaw in the nature of Hamlet and that is the essence of the tragedy in Hamlet. Thus, all the soliloquy 's have an integral part in conveying the deepest thoughts in Hamlet and that gives a dimension to the flow of the play.
arjun | Student

The main point to discuss is why all soliloquies are linked to one an other. They are linked because main cause is that Hamlet is under heavy sorrow because his father is killed, and his mother is married to his uncle. The Ghost appears and informs what reality is for Hamlet. The central plot is to seek out the enemy and punish him.

Whenever Hamlet tries to take revenge, nature, or natural forces, takes sides with the enemy and he goes into deep desperation.

That desperation reflects the state of his mind, that's why all soliloquies are similar in nature. His soliloquies are in Act 1, scene 2; Act 2, scene 2; Act 3, scene 1; and Act 4, scene 4. All are leading Hamlet to his down fall.

rozenthalm | Student

To Be Or Not To Be, is probably the most famous and often quoted soliloquy in Western Literature.  It addresses one of the fundamental questions of life:  Why must I live when life is so unbearable?

Hamlet’s central problem is that he is not sure what to do.  His father has died, his mother, Gertrude, has married his father’s brother, Claudius, and his father’s ghost has revealed that he was murdered by Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, step-father, and king.  Not only is Hamlet depressed, he is also confused.  Can he trust the ghost?

To escape his misery and confusion he is contemplating suicide.  But he realizes that death might not be an escape from misery.  There may be an afterlife which is worse.

Who would fardels (burdens) bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Why must we live if living is full of suffering and confusion?  Hamlet’s answer is that it might be the lesser of two evils.  We fear death, not only by instinct, but also because we fear that suicide might get us into even more trouble, which is, in most circumstances, what the world’s religions admonish us to remember.