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In this essay I shall be looking at three different speeches or
soliloquies by Hamlet in the play. I shall be looking at how Hamlets
state of mind differs as the play progresses. I will also be exploring
Hamlets changing attitudes towards life and death.
Act one Scene two lines 129-159
Hamlet begins his soliloquy by saying
'O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew,'
this tells us straight away that he wishes his he could just melt away
from existence and disappear as part of a dew. This shows that he is
clearly not happy with his life at the moment and wishes he could just
end it all here and then. He then gives his reasons why he cannot just
end it all and kill him self now by saying
'Or that the Everlasting had not fixed,
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter.'
He therefore knows that if he does commit suicide then it is a crime
against god . He uses gods 'cannon' as a metaphor for gods ability to
be able to damn people into hell. So he knows that he would be damned
to hell if he were to kill himself now. If it wasn't for this reason
then it is clear that Hamlet would have no problem killing himself. He
continues by explaining how there is no point in the world, which he
'How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!'
He is not happy and he is just explaining that to him there is no
point in the world there is no need for him to be there. It is now as
though he is speaking to god and explaining to him why there is no
point in his existence it was like he was trying to convince God that
he should die because he is doing no use on Earth.
'fie on't, ah fie, 'tis and unweeded garden'
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"Hamlets State of Mind Shown Through His Speeches." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Feb 2020
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is Hamlets next line. A well tended garden which has been looked after
is symbolic for harmony and normalcy, as Hamlet says it is an unweeded
garden which hasn't been looked after means the opposite of harmony
Hamlet continues his soliloquy by expressing his disgust at how the
people around him could brush off the death of his father so easily
and forget him completely after only two months being dead.
He praises his father-
'So excellent a king, that was to this,
Hyperion to satyr, sol loving to my mother,
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven,
Visit her face too roughly-heaven and earth,'
Hamlet compares his father to Hyperion who was an ancient sun god. He
describes the new king however as satyr which is a grotesque half-man
half-goat type creature. This shows how differently he thinks of
Claudius to his father, his father is godlike while Claudius is like a
beast. He tells of how his father used to treat Gertrude so kind and
gently and wouldn't even let a rough wind hit her face. He knew that
his mother also loved Old Hamlet in the same way, which is why Hamlet
is so shocked and appalled that Gertrude has remarried and appeared to
have forgotten about Old Hamlet.
'â€¦A beast that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourned longer'
Here Hamlet is saying that a beast that is incapable of thinking would
have mourned longer than Gertrude did for Hamlets father. He continues
by explaining how different Claudius is to his father.
'My fathers brother, but no more like my father,
Than I to Hercules'.
Here Hamlet is saying how unlike his father Claudius is. He says that
his father was as much like Claudius as Hamlet is to Hercules. Hamlet
is clearly nothing like Hercules so Claudius is obviously nothing like
his father. He already explains how highly he regards his father and
therefore believes the opposite of that for Claudius thinking him to
be far inferior.
Hamlet's feelings for his mother are now that of disbelief for her
marrying Claudius despite his obvious differences with Old Hamlet,
contempt for how little she mourned his fathers death and betrayal for
how she forgot about Old Hamlet and married Claudius so soon after the
'â€¦Oh most wicked speed, to post,
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets.'
This sums up how Hamlet feels about the rapid marriage of Gertrude.
But he also knows that he can't tell Gertrude about what he thinks -
'But break my heart for I must hold my tongue.'
This soliloquy tells us that Hamlet is unsure if what he has to do. He
is clearly very unhappy with his life and would happily end it if god
hadn't made it a sin for suicide. He is not only unhappy with the
world but also the people which are in his life like Gertrude and her
rapid re-marriage, the death of his father, his disgust for Claudius
and all the other people who were close to the king when he died but
who have now disregarded his death after less than two months.
Act three Scene one Lines 56-89
Hamlet begins this soliloquy in very much the same way which he
started the first - contemplating suicide.
'To be or not to be, that is the question'
Here he means to live or not to live, so he is wondering whether it
would be better for him to live or die. He continues -
'Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
The Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take up arms against a seas of troubles,
And by opposing end them.'
He is asking himself whether it would be better (more noble) to suffer
the world and all its evils with an 'outrageous' future and live it
out. Or if you cannot cope with the 'slings and arrows of outrageous
fortune' then you have nothing else to do but suicide. Hamlet already
knows the consequences of what might happen if you were to commit
suicide and asks himself if it is because of fear of what may happen
in the after life why people put up with the world.
'â€¦To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,'
If sleep is metaphorical for death then the dreams must mean what
happens to you once you are dead. So it is the fear of what you may
dream in the eternal sleep which is death. This is clearly what is
troubling Hamlet the question of whether to live out his life through
all the hard times which face him or to end it now and chance what may
happen in the afterlife. He therefore believes that everyone would end
their life if they believe that there was nothing bad which may happen
to them if they kill themselves.
'For who would bear the whips and scorns of time'
'â€¦But that the dread of something after death.'
Because everyone is not killing themselves he believes they have been
made cowards by their conscience:
'Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,'
He now leaves the subject of life and death and talks about ophelia
who he just heard praying nearby. He knows that she is praying and
asks her to remember him in her prayer.
'The fair Ophelia. - Nymph, in thy orisons,
Be all my sins remembered.'
In this soliloquy Hamlet thinks mainly on man as a whole and does not
think of it as his own situation. He asks why people would put up with
life if it weren't for what may happen to them in the afterlife. He is
clearly very worried about the afterlife and doesn't want to chance
suicide, but It also shows us how he feels towards the other
characters and the death of his father.
Act Five Scene One Lines 156-164
In this conversation with Horatio Hamlet is saddened by the news that
the old jester for the king - Yorick had died. He begins by explaining
to Horatio what kind of a character Yorick was and is clearly very
upset to be holding his skull in his hand. He explains how Yorick was
once so full of character and joyful. 'A fellow of infinite jest, of
most excellent fancy, he hath bourne me on his back a thousand times'
He is reminiscing about times when he was younger and when he used to
play with the jester and was obviously much happier in life than he is
now. Hamlet may also start to feel that everything in his life at the
moment is going wrong for him and this has just added an extra worry
to his mind.
Hamlet finally realises (to his disgust) in this speech that when you
die you become nothing more than a pile of bones. But he has finally
decided to accept it and get on with it. He tells of how women make
themselves up to look like what they are not but in the end underneath
all of the makeup and false faces that they put on there is nothing
more than a skull like everyone else's underneath. 'Not get you to my
lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this
favour she must come,'
Hamlet seems to find it hard to believe that someone he loved so much
could now be nothing more than a skull. Hamlet has finally come to
terms with death and is no longer contemplating suicide because he
knows his death is coming. He has also realised that no matter who you
are in life, in death you are the same as every one else in that you
will end up as just a pile of bones in the end.
Throughout the play Hamlets mind has been constantly obsessed with the
idea of death and of what happens to you after you die. In the first
soliloquy Hamlet is contemplating suicide but knows that if he were to
do it god would damn him. In the second soliloquy Hamlet thinks about
man as a whole and less about himself he believes that people only put
up with life and don't kill themselves is for fear of what may happen
to them in the afterlife. In the final speech to Horatio Hamlet has
finally come to terms with the idea of death and has given up on the
idea of suicide because he knows that his death will come, he will not
look forward to it nor will he be scared of it. These three
speeches/soliloquy's help you to understand how Hamlets state of mind
changes as the play progresses and as he becomes more and more
accustomed to the idea of death but still it never leaves his mind.