Unit 3 – Hamlet Act 2

Anna’s question: What makes the soliloquy of Hamlet such an iconic scene within the play? What did Shakespeare do to give this scene strength and beauty?

My response:

Hamlet’s soliloquy is such an iconic scene within the play because it characterises Hamlet and reveals the conflicting emotions within him. In this scene, it becomes clear that Hamlet is eager to avenge his father, but is also hesitant. Shakespeare employs rhetorical questioning to display Hamlet’s fear and lack of confidence in himself. He says, “Am I a coward? Who calls me villain? Breaks my pate across? Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?”, Through this, it becomes clear that Hamlet, despite wanting to take revenge, is also doubtful of himself and sees himself as a coward. Shakespeare then uses strong diction to emphasise Hamlet’s eagerness to take revenge for his father. He calls King Claudius a “blood, bawdy villain” who “treacherously” took his father’s place. Hamlet’s doubt is once again brought out when a more melancholic tone is used to speak about the ghost. He admits that the ghost “may be the devil, and the devil hath power t’ assume a pleasing shape.” He once again notes his doubts, but resolves to continue with his plan. Overall, Shakespeare uses rhetorical questioning, diction, and tone in the soliloquy to characterise Hamlet and expose his inner conflict. As a result of this soliloquy, it becomes clear to the reader that Hamlet is uncertain of himself despite his hatred for King Claudius. The contrasts in his thoughts highlight him possibly being on the verge of insanity, as well as foreshadow his actions in the rest of the play.

Question for the next person:
In the beginning of his soliloquy, Hamlet comments on the player and his ability to weep “for Hecuba.” What is the significance of Hamlet’s comments about the player?