A literary device that is often overlooked in the Early Modern period of Europe is the utilization of soliloquys to give insight to a character’s inner thoughts. Perhaps the most famous line in English literature: “To be or not to be…” is at the start of a soliloquy. Soliloquys are often found to be the turning points of many pieces of literature, especially Shakespearean literature. For example, in Othello, all of Iago’s soliloquys proves to be points where Iago shares his motives, or decides the next step of his treacherous plan. And in Hamlet, at the end of Act 3, Scene 4, Hamlet makes up his mind to murder Claudius. Now, in the famous “To be or not to be…” soliloquy, Hamlet ponders upon the idea of suicide, he asks: “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer/The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,/Or to take arms against a sea of troubles/And, by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep,” (3.1 65-8). Because Hamlet doesn’t have many people that he trusts, he can only reveal his inner mind through soliloquys, without these, Hamlet will become shallower and less multi-dimensional. After Hamlet discusses the “easily way out” that is suicide, he goes on to discuss the respect one earns for “bearing the whips and scorns of time,” (3.1 77).
Not only does Shakespeare use so...
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...y, when Hamlet declares: “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,/And thus the native hue of resolution/Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,/ And enterprises of great pitch and moment/With this regard their currents turn awry/And lose the name of action.” (3.1 90-95). In this passage, Hamlet describes suicide as the native hue of resolution, and our conscience makes us cowards and tempts us to use the “native hue of resolution”.
In English literature, the content and the story of a piece are undoubtedly important, but correct use of literary devices is invaluable. And maybe this is what separates many other writers of the Early Modern period from the infamous Shakespeare. And maybe this is why King James I adored many of the Bard’s works. And maybe this is why Shakespeare is still a part of our English curriculum centuries after his glory days.
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