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As one of the most renowned playwrights, Shakespeare was a pioneer of theater in a lot of

aspects. One of the most important theatrical elements that he made popular was soliloquy. He
led a trend of featuring soliloquies in the play. Hirsh in his Shakespeare and the History of
Soliloquy says that “until the middle of the seventeenth century, soliloquies in European drama
represented speeches by characters and did not represent the thoughts of characters” (1).
Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy became a paradigmatic soliloquy because scholars
identify it as a demonstration of Hamlet’s own thoughts instead of a representation of the
character, and thus made soliloquies a feature of Shakespearean tragedies including Macbeth
and Romeo and Juliet. The soliloquies in Hamlet are also significant because Shakespeare uses
the conventions of soliloquies in a more dramatic way; he followed the rules yet also broke the
rules.

Soliloquy is a serious, and usually long speech in a play. It is a “one-man talk” in which there are
no other characters on the. Soliloquy takes place under the context that none of the other
characters know the content of the soliloquy and the character is talking to himself or herself.
While they are talking, characters are also built under the assumption that any other characters
can break in at any time.

The characteristics of soliloquy lays out some conventions of using soliloquy. One of the
suggestions is that Hamlet’s soliloquies tells his unspoken thoughts. In reality, people talk to
themselves, outspoken or unspoken, about all the innermost thoughts that they cannot share
with other people around them. It could be either a moment of self-reflection that evokes the
epiphany of our lives, or an outlet of the complex emotions that we are not able to share—love,
hate, disappointment, satisfaction, desire, or a mixture of all of the above. While the dialogue
serves as an outward conversation, soliloquy is an inward communication. It is the
communication between the side of a person that is showing to the public and the side of the
same person in his or her own heart. In a play, soliloquy works exactly in the same way. Even
though such inward conversation is presented in a theatrical space opened to the audience, the
character still acts as if he or she is talking to themselves. Soliloquy gives characters an
opportunity to have an inward conversation with themselves in a not-so-private theater.

Unlike Hamlet's first two major soliloquies, his third and most famous speech seems to be
governed by reason and not frenzied emotion. Unable to do little but wait for completion of his
plan to "catch the conscience of the king", Hamlet sparks an internal philosophical debate on
the advantages and disadvantages of existence, and whether it is one's right to end his or her
own life. Some scholars limit Hamlet's discussion to a deliberation of whether he should take
his own life. "Yet nothing anywhere in the speech relates it to Hamlet's individual case. He uses
the pronouns we and us, the indefinite who, the impersonal infinitive. He speaks explicitly of us
all, of what flesh is heir to, of what we suffer at the hands of time or fortune - which serves
incidentally to indicate what for Hamlet is meant by to be" (Jenkins 489).