Hamlets First Solloquy Essay

The tone of Hamlet’s first soliloquy begins as sad and depressed as Hamlet contemplates suicide. The tone changes to angry and bitter while Hamlet ponders the relationship between his mother and his uncle. Through Shakespeare’s use of diction and syntax he shows Hamlet’s disapproval of this relationship.

In the first section of this soliloquy Hamlet is considering suicide but does not follow through with his thoughts because of religious reasons. This is apparent through Hamlet’s words, “or that the everlasting had not fixed his cannon ‘gainst self-slaughtered!” Shakespeare’s use of words such as flat, stale, and weary contributes to a tone of sorrow and sadness. The long, drawn out sentences also create a tone of distress. As an actor performing this soliloquy, I would act out this first section until “…seem to me all the uses of this world!” as a despondent tone.

In the next section of the soliloquy Hamlet is angry with his mother because she married Hamlet’s uncle so soon after his father’s death. This section should be performed as incensed and bitter. It should demonstrate to the audience Hamlet’s disapproval of the relationship between his mother and uncle, as it is throughout this soliloquy.

As Hamlet says, “So excellent a king that was to this Hyperon to a satyr.” he compares his uncle to his father. He also reminisces about the relationship between his parents when he says, “so loving to my mother…” Although Hamlet remains angry with his mother, he becomes sad as he remembers his father’s gentle and loving ways. This should be performed as thoughtful and reminiscent.

The remaining of the soliloquy up until the last sentence, Hamlet becomes bitter as he says the marriage between his mother and uncle is founded on lust and sex. With Hamlet’s words, “she would hang on him…” informs the audience of his mother’s dependence upon men. Hamlet then compares his mother to a beast. This metaphor enhances the point of how quickly she was able to recover from her husband’s death. The phrase, “incestuous sheets” suggests Hamlet’s knowledge of what had gone on between the two even before his father’s death. This section would be best performed as extremely acrimonious and angry.

The purpose of this soliloquy is to notify the audience of Hamlet’s awareness of both his mother and uncle’s guilt. While he may not accuse his mother of murder, he does indict her of having an affair with his uncle before his father’s death. He claims their relationship his based solely on lust and sex. Hamlet concludes his soliloquy with his frustration in saying he cannot say anything nor do anything about his knowledge and disapproval of his uncle’s actions and relationship with his mother. This is a tone of not only frustration but perhaps even disappointed because he can not act on his feelings of anger.

In this soliloquy, Hamlet brings up the idea of suicide and then expresses his disgust that his mother, who loved his father greatly, married his father's uncle just over a month after burying Hamlet's father.

In terms of social context, this reveals that Hamlet follows the social rules imposed by the church. He will not commit suicide because the church forbids it: "Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd / His canon 'gainst self-slaughter!" By...

In this soliloquy, Hamlet brings up the idea of suicide and then expresses his disgust that his mother, who loved his father greatly, married his father's uncle just over a month after burying Hamlet's father.

In terms of social context, this reveals that Hamlet follows the social rules imposed by the church. He will not commit suicide because the church forbids it: "Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd / His canon 'gainst self-slaughter!" By "the Everlasting," Hamlet means God. "His canon" refers to the rules that God set forth, according to the church, and "self-slaughter" means suicide. We know that it is a sin to take one's own life according to the Catholic religion. Hamlet seems to say that he does not wish to live in a world that is so disgusting, but he will not take his own life because the church forbids it. Therefore he feels that if he were to commit suicide, all his friends and family members, and everyone in his community would be angry or upset with him for breaking canonical law, a social construct.

The majority of this soliloquy is about Hamlet's disgust with his mother's decision to marry Hamlet's uncle Claudius so soon after her beloved husband, Hamlet's father, was buried. At the end of the soliloquy, Hamlet says although his heart is breaking, he must keep quiet: "But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue!" By "hold my tongue," Hamlet means keep quiet. This idea is also connected to social context, and reveals that Hamlet follows social expectations about his relationship to his mother. It would be inappropriate for a son to question his mother's choices. If Hamlet were to talk about his mother, the community would be angry at him, because he is supposed to be a respectful son. If he were to confront his mother, she would be hurt and offended, again because he should respect her and trust her decisions. The way a son is supposed to behave towards his mother is another social construct. Hamlet's and Shakespeare's societies expected people to be respectful towards their parents.

You can read Hamlet's soliloquy on eNotes here, with a modern English translation and annotations to help you understand it clearly.

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