What emotions do you think Hamlet experiences over the course of this speech?it's the act 4 scene 4. the fourth sililoquy. also, What conclusion does Hamlet reach, or what does Hamlet realize,...

What emotions do you think Hamlet experiences over the course of this speech?

it's the act 4 scene 4. the fourth sililoquy. also, What conclusion does Hamlet reach, or what does Hamlet realize, over the course of this speech?

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susan3smith's profile pic

susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

This speech is puzzling.  It would be easy to think that Hamlet has become more decisive in attaining his revenge, but the ideas and emotions that are expressed here are somewhat contradictory.  Hamlet is still conflicted.  He is angry with himself that he has not acted to avenge his father's death, but his anger is much more controlled than it is when he castigates himself in his soliloquy in Act 2 that begins with

O what a rogue and peasant slave am I

In Act 4, Hamlet is more philosophical as he meditates on man's purpose in life, the nature of thought, and Fortinbras's actions.  Even though Hamlet seems to admire Fortinbras' ability to take action

when honour's at stake,

there is, nevertheless an implied criticism of Fortinbras in Hamlet's description of him:  Fortinbras is fighting for an "egg-shell," twenty thousand men will go to their graves for a "fantasy and trick of fame," they will fight for a plot of land that is not even large enough to bury them.  These are hardly rousing words.  Hamlet seems to be questioning the merit of the Fortinbras's actions while admiring the fact that Fortinbras is acting. 

At the end of this soliloquy, Hamlet declares that

My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!

The choice of the word "thoughts" is interesting here.  Hamlet does not say that his deeds will be bloody, just his thoughts.  In other words, it seems that Hamlet, despite all his says, may not be truly convinced that avenging his father's death is a worthy act.  Is killing Claudius the equivalent of sacrificing many lives and  the stability of a country for an "an egg shell" of family honor? 

 

 

kapokkid's profile pic

kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Most readings of Hamlet in this situation suggest that this is the point where Hamlet goes from being an incredibly conflicted man who cannot take action on any level to being a man who is capable of and committed to taking actions to avenge his father's death.

He sees this massive army arrayed before him made up of individual men but led by just one man, subject to whim and emotion just as he is but still willing to lead this massive force and apply it to what he feels is important.

So he looks to his own emotion and the whim he feels and uncertainty about the absolute right-ness of what he feels and decides that he ought to be able to at least act personally if this massive army can be guided by just one man.  If the twenty thousand men led to their death on a whim will do so willingly, how can he not act himself.

wackedout's profile pic

wackedout | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

A lto of anger towards Gertrude

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