The Changing Character Hamlet in Act II and Act IV of Shakespeare's Hamlet

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The Changing Character Hamlet in Act II and Act IV of Shakespeare's Hamlet


In Shakespeare's Hamlet, although the character Hamlet makes similar points about himself in the soliloquies of Act II and Act IV, he seems to be less self-blaming and more in control of his emotions in the Act IV soliloquy.

In the Act IV soliloquy, Hamlet is less self-blaming and more in control of his emotions. In Act II Hamlet blames himself for the delay in his revenge, "O, what a rouge and peasant slave am I!" (2:2:519). He also seems to be more self-abusive in his expressions, "Why, what an ass am I!" (2:2:553). Hamlet's deep depression is expressed through his comparison of himself to the lowest and most worthless things he can think of. However, in the Act IV soliloquy, Hamlet uses logic to reason his delay in killing Claudius, "How all occasions do inform against me and spur my dull revenge!" (4:4:32). While he is still a bit emotional, he is less self-abusive and more in control of his feelings, "How stand I then, that have a father killed, a mother stained." (4:4:56). Hamlet's reproach of his actions is gentler and less derogatory. He uses reason to explain how certain occasions have delayed him rather than blaming himself for backing out on his plans.

In both soliloquies Hamlet makes comparisons between himself and other characters. In Act II he compares himself to an actor and in Act IV he compares himself to Fortinbras. In both soliloquies Hamlet uses the comparisons to put himself down for not carrying out his actions. In Act II Hamlet is angry with himself because he doesn't understand how an actor can get so emotional over a speech that he is reading, while Hamlet, who is actually in the real situation, is passive in his emotions, "Is it not monstrous that this player here, but in a fiction, in a dream of passion, could force his soul so to his own conceit." (2:2:520). In Act IV Hamlet expresses admiration for Fortinbras' courage and ambition to succeed and to fight for his name and honor, (".led by a delicate and tender prince, whose spirit, with divine ambition puffed." (4:4:48). Although both comparisons are different, both the actor and Fortinbras serve as role-models to Hamlet. He looks up to their actions to spur his ambition for revenge.

At the end of each soliloquy Hamlet reaches a state of resolution, in which he seeks to find certain truths about himself and the outside world.

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At the end of Act II Hamlet seeks to find the truth about the outside world. He is determined to find out whether his father's apparition was an honest one. He decides to put on a play similar to his situation through which he could test and evaluate Claudius' reaction, "I'll have grounds more relative than this. The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." (2:2:574). The play is used to reinforce Hamlet's belief that Claudius really killed his father. At the end of Act II, Hamlet already knows the truth about the world outside of him. In act IV, however, he seeks to find the truth about himself. Hamlet wants to find out why it is that he has not acted out his thoughts. He wants to discover why it is that his approach toward death has changed since Act II and why it is that he is not scared of death anymore. Lastly, his resolution is either to get the murder over with or not to think about it at all "O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!" (4:4:65).

Hamlet's emotions and thoughts have changed significantly from Act II to Act IV. He was able to accomplish two things. He discovered both the truth about himself and about the outside world. He progressed emotionally by being less hard on himself and using logical explanations for his delay in revenge. Lastly, he resolved to get Claudius' murder done once and for all.


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