Which lines can be used to show Hamlet's character in this soliloquy, "How all occasions do inform against me" (4.4.32-66)?

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Concerning Hamlet's "How all occasions do inform against me" soliloquy in Shakespeare's Hamlet, the value Hamlet puts on reason is revealed first in the passage:

...What is a man,

If his chief good and market of his time

Be but to sleep and feed?  A beast, no more.

Sure he that made us with such large discourse,

Looking before and after, gave us not

That capability and godlike reason

To fust in us unused. 

But Hamlet is feeling rebuked by the willingness of the Norwegian and Polish armies to die for a worthless piece of land, when he, son of a murdered father, has not yet revenged that father.  Hamlet's interpretation of their willingness to fight for an "eggshell," for nothing, is that they are fighting for honor.  Thus, we also learn that Hamlet values honor:

...Rightly to be great

Is not to stir without great argument,

But greatly to find quarrel in a straw

When honor's at the stake. 

Hamlet's thought process takes him from contemplating the value of reason, to rebuking himself for putting too much emphasis on reason, and failing to act because of honor.  He isn't sure if he has just been unthinking--"bestial oblivion"--or if he has thought too much on the consequences of his actions--"thinking too precisely on th' event."  But whatever the cause for his delay:

...O, from this time forth,

My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!

And they are. 

Read the study guide:
Hamlet

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