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Tacacho, Paola Estefana Anglophone literatura III

Analysis of Hamlets 1st soliloquy It is my aim in this essay to analyze hamlets 1 st soliloquy (Act 1, scene 2). A soliloquy is a dramatic or literary form of discourse in which a character talks to himself, or reveals his thoughts without addressing a listener. It is thought that in Shakespeare time the soliloquy was performed to contemporary audiences as if they were being directly addressed by the speaker. This would mean that the speaker was presenting thinking aloud as if he were alone, which is how most modern productions present soliloquy. Hamlets soliloquy gives us an insight of the infinite sorrow he experienced after his fathers death and the marriage of his mother to Claudius, the deceased Kings brother. In this soliloquy, Hamlet gets many things off his chest, as he is not able to do so publicly. Hamlet begins his speech with the words: O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew! (page 35, act I, scene II, lines 131, 132) Here, he conceives a natural element such as a dew as something ephemeral and shows his desire to be transformed into it, since, for the sorrow he feels, he is averse to going on living. So, we can say that the author presents nature imagery as a sign of mortality and, most importantly, of the shortness of life. Along the text, there are other instances of imagery connected with nature, for instance, things rank and gross in nature (page 35, lines 137-138). Hamlet quotes these words in reference to both, his fathers death and his own idea of committing self-slaughter. The purpose of these words in connection with his idea of committing suicide is to reduce the impact that such an idea would have on the audience. A paradox is also implied here, since he is speaking of death as something common to nature; however, he is incapable of accepting his fathers death. The word nature itself is laden with a polysemous meaning. It refers to nature in general, but its mentioning is cleverly used in this context, where it may also signify commonness, i.e, things that we all know because they happen to all of us. So this latter meaning contributes to lessen the strength of the idea of suicide aforementioned. In this soliloquy, Hamlet conceives the world, metaphorically, as an unweedded garden (page 35, line136). This metaphor, through its potent

Tacacho, Paola Estefana Anglophone literatura III

nature-related imagery, reflects Hamlets conception of the world as a place where nothing good could happen to him. We get to infer this by his previous quotation How weary, flat, stale, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world! (page 35, lines 135-136). There are echoes of Greek mythology present along the soliloquy. In his Hyperion to a satyr comparison, Shakespeares intention was to contrast the Princes deceased father (the Hyperion, i.e. the Father of the Sun) to the current King of Denmark, Claudius (the satyr, i.e. one of race of half man, half goat, much given to drunkenness and promiscuity). The image of the satyr symbolizes the archetype of man driven by his lower instincts. Greek mythological characters also appear is Hamlets comparison of Gertrude to Niobe (Queen of Thebes, who wept so much at the death of her fourteenth child that she was transformed into a rock, which continued to weep). Another interesting instance of imagery is, to me, that of the old shoes. Hamlet says or ere those shoes were old with which she followed my poor fathers body (page 335, lines 150-151). I think that by the mention of old shoes he is trying to establish a link between his old, wise, noble father (represented by the idea of old things, as he is already dead) and Claudius, the new, drunk and promiscuous King, who dared to commit incest with his former sister-in-law. Hamlet calls Gertrude a beast that wants discourse of reason (page 35, line 152). He quoted such a thing about his mother as a critique to the ephemeral mourning she went into, note also O, most wicked speed, to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets! (page 35, lines 158-159). Within this profession of Hamlets innermost thoughts, it is blatantly visible that his mothers overhasty marriage to his uncle so quickly after his fathers funeral has affected the prince deeply to the core. He views it as a betrayal to his true fathers memory and himself. Because this causes him so much agony that he considers suicide. Images related to tears and the act of crying represent the insincere performance of those actions and the false outward expressions of real feelings, for example Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears had left the flushing in her galled eyed, she married (page 37, lines 156-157-158).

Tacacho, Paola Estefana Anglophone literatura III

Hamlets being able to express his sorrow to himself only, not publicly also relates to the idea of all exterior signs of sorrow conceived as insincere. Finally, Hamlet presents all his fathers good and noble qualities together with his grandeur by the image of Hercules, the archetype representative of these qualities. He does so by saying My fathers brother; but not more like my father than I to Hercules (page 35, lines 154-155); meaning that Claudius is not able to fill the big shoes King Hamlet left empty.

Glossary: Polysemy: it refers to a word that has two or more similar meanings. Imagery: the term refers to a Vivid, descriptive use of language that appeals to one or more of the senses. Sometimes imagery is also used to refer to figurative language, in particular metaphors and similes. Paradox: it as a literary device has been defined as an anomalous juxtaposition of incongruous ideas for the sake of striking exposition or unorthodox insight. It functions as a method of literary analysis which involves examining apparently contradictory statements and drawing conclusions either to reconcile them or to explain their presence. Bibliography: Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Longman, Longman Literature Shakespeare. http://www.wordnik.com/words/soliloquy http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary/polysemy.html http://grammar.about.com/od/il/g/imageryterm.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox#Paradox_in_literature