Hamlet essay – Hamlet’s Synopsis, Analysis, and All Seven Soliloquies
The Tragical History Of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or, as it’s more simply known, Hamlet, is a play that holds immense importance in English literature.
This drama was written by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1601. The plot is set in the country of Denmark, and the main protagonist is Prince Hamlet.
Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest drama. It is still considered a pioneer in English literature. Several films and plays have been made as adaptations featuring many renowned actors.
Hamlet is the prince of Denmark. He is abroad, studying in Germany, when his father, the king, dies. He is summoned back to Denmark in order to attend his father’s funeral.
Already drowning in grief, Hamlet becomes even more upset by the fact that his mother has married his uncle—the brother of her recently departed husband.
Hamlet does not think she mourned his father for a reasonable amount of time before marrying again, and the hasty marriage also means that his uncle, now King Claudius, sits upon the throne rather than himself. Hamlet suspects foul play.
One night, Hamlet sees the ghost of his father, who tells him that his death was not natural. Rather he was killed, and says his death was a “foul and most unnatural murder.”
The ghost of Hamlet’s father tells Prince Hamlet that he was murdered by his own brother, King Claudius, who now holds his throne and is even married to his wife. He commands Hamlet to seek revenge for his dead father’s murder. Hamlet swears to fulfill his revenge and to kill King Claudius.
But later, Hamlet faces a dilemma. Can he trust the ghost? Is the vision of a spirit enough reason to kill his uncle, the king?
Later in Shakespeare’s great literary work, Hamlet toys with many options to escape his unhappy situation, including suicide.
The play includes many philosophical situations and heart-wrenching scenes. This drama is worth reading for any person interested—even a little bit—in literary work, Shakespeare, drama, or just an amazing piece of writing.
From time to time in the play, Hamlet delivers a soliloquy, or a speech that the audience can hear, but the other characters cannot. These speeches let us know what Hamlet is thinking but not saying, and there are seven soliloquies in all.
If you are not familiar with what a soliloquy is, read “What is a Soliloquy?” The article provides a definition of a soliloquy, discusses the soliloquy’s purpose and why they’re important, and provides examples, including a video, for better understanding.
To really understand the plot development of Hamlet, one needs to understand the actual meaning and concept of each of Hamlet’s soliloquies. Since the text of that era is hard to understand for today’s students, I made seven different articles for each soliloquy, so you could understand them easily. These articles each contain the original text of the soliloquy, as well as a summary and an explanation of that soliloquy.
In these seven soliloquies, Hamlet shares his inner feelings, thoughts, and plans for the future. These soliloquies are the pivotal pillars of the drama and are still considered some of Shakespeare’s most brilliant writing. You will likely recognize lines, such as the famous “To be or not to be…” Without reading these seven soliloquies, one cannot enjoy the true experience of this amazing drama.
1. Hamlet’s First Soliloquy
O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!… (Act 1, Scene 2)
2. Hamlet’s Second Soliloquy
O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?
And shall I couple hell? O, fie! — Hold, my heart… (Act 1, Scene 5)
3. Hamlet’s Third Soliloquy
Ay, so, God b’ wi’ ye!
Now I am alone.
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!… (Act 2, Scene 2)
4. Hamlet’s Fourth Soliloquy (to be or not to be)
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
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?… (Act 3, Scene 1)
5. Hamlet’s Fifth Soliloquy
‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world…
Soft! now to my mother…
Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none… (Act 3, Scene 2)
6. Hamlet’s Sixth Soliloquy
Now might I do it pat now he is praying,
And now I’ll do it, and so he goes to heaven.
And so am I revenged, that would be scanned… (Act 3, Scene 3)
7. Hamlet’s Seventh Soliloquy
How all occasions do inform against me
And spur my dull revenge!… (Act 4, Scene 4)
Analysis of the image of Hamlet
“Hamlet” – the most difficult to interpret of all the tragedies of Shakespeare due to the extreme complexity of her plan. No work of world literature has caused so many contradictory explanations.
Hamlet, a Danish prince, learns that his father did not die a natural death, but was treacherously killed by Claudius, who married the widow of the deceased and inherited his throne. Hamlet swears all his life to avenge his father – and instead for four acts meditates, rebukes himself and others, philosophizes, doing nothing decisive, until at the end of the fifth act kills, finally, the villain is purely impulsive when he learns that he poisoned himself.
What is the reason for such passivity and apparent helplessness of Hamlet? Critics saw it in the natural softness of Hamlet’s soul, in his excessive “intellectualism” that kills his supposed ability to act, in his Christian gentleness and inclination to forgiveness. All these explanations contradict the clearest instructions in the text of the tragedy.
Hamlet by nature is not reluctant and not passive: he boldly rushes after the spirit of his father, without hesitation, kills Polonius, who hid behind the carpet, shows extraordinary ingenuity and courage when sailing to England. It is not so much in the nature of Hamlet, as in the special position in which he finds himself.
A student at the University of Wittenberg, all devoted to science and reflection, kept away from court life, Hamlet suddenly discovers aspects of life that he previously “never dreamed of.” It is as if a veil falls from his eyes.
Even before he was convinced of the villainous murder of his father, he was horrified by the instability of his remarried mother, “not having time to wear shoes” in which she hid her first husband, the horror of incredible falsehood and corruption of the entire Danish court (Polonius, Guildenstern and Rosenkrantz, Ozrik and others). In light of his mother’s moral weakness, he also understands the ethical helplessness of Ophelia, who, for all her purity and love for Hamlet, is unable to understand him and help him, because she believes in everything and obeys the pathetic intriguer – his father.
All this is summarized by Hamlet in the picture of the corruption of the world, which is presented to him as a “garden overgrown with weeds.” He says: “The whole world is a prison, with many prisons, dungeons and dungeons, and Denmark is one of the worst.” Hamlet understands that the point is not in the very fact of his father’s murder, but in the fact that this murder could have taken place, gone unpunished and bore fruit for the murderer only through the indifference, indulgence and pleasing of those around him.
Thus, the whole court and the whole of Denmark are involved in this assassination, and Hamlet would have to arm himself against the whole world to take revenge. On the other hand, Hamlet understands that he was not the only one to suffer from the evil spilled around him. In the monologue “To be or not to be?” he lists the scourges that torment mankind: “» the whips and mockery of the century, the oppression of the strong, the mockery of the proud, the pain of shameful love, the lies of judges, the arrogance of the authorities and the insults of humble merit. ”
If Hamlet was a selfish man who pursued purely personal goals, he would quickly deal with Claudius and regain the throne. But he is a thinker and humanist, concerned with the common good and who feels responsible for all. Hamlet must therefore fight against the lies of the whole world, defending all the oppressed. This is the meaning of his exclamation (at the end of the first act):
The century shook; and the worst
That I was born to restore it!
But such a task, according to Hamlet, is impossible for even the most powerful man, and therefore Hamlet retreats before her, going into his thoughts and immersing himself in the depths of his despair. However, showing the inevitability of such a position of Hamlet and its root causes, Shakespeare does not justify his inaction and considers it a painful phenomenon. This is the emotional tragedy of Hamlet (what critics of the nineteenth century called “Hamletism”).
Shakespeare expressed his attitude to Hamlet’s experiences very clearly by saying that Hamlet himself mourned his state of mind and rebuked himself for inaction. He cites the example of the young Fortinbras, who “because of the epic, when honor is touched,” leads twenty thousand people to a deadly battle, or the actor, who, reading a monologue about Gekuba, was so imbued with “fictional passion” that he became pale “, While he, Hamlet, like a coward,” takes away the soul with words. ” Hamlet’s thought expanded so much that it made direct action impossible, because the object of Hamlet’s aspirations became elusive.
This is the root of Hamlet’s skepticism and apparent pessimism. But at the same time, this position of Hamlet unusually sharpens his mind, making him a sharp and impartial judge of life. Expanding and deepening the knowledge of the reality and essence of human relations becomes as if the life’s work of Hamlet. He tears off the masks of all the liars and hypocrites he meets, exposes all the old superstitions.
Hamlet’s utterances are often full of bitter sarcasm and, as it may seem, gloomy misanthropy; for example, when he says to Ophelia: “If you are charitable and beautiful, your virtue should not allow conversations with your beauty…
Go to the monastery: why do you have to breed sinners?”, or when he declares to Polonia: “If you accept everyone on merit, then who will escape the whip? ” However, the very passion and hyperbole of his expressions indicate the fervor of his heart, suffering and sensitive.
Hamlet, as shown by his attitude to Horace, is capable of deep and faithful friendship; he loved Ophelia passionately, and the impulse with which he rushes to her coffin is deeply sincere; he loves his mother, and in the night’s conversation, when he torments her, he slips the features of his son’s touching tenderness; he is genuinely delicate (before the fatal rapier race) with Laertes, from whom he sincerely apologizes for his recent sharpness; his last words before his death were congratulations to Fortinbras, to whom he bequeathed the throne for the good of his homeland.
It is especially characteristic that, caring for his good name, he instructs Horace to tell everyone the truth about him.
Due to this, expressing exceptional depth of thought, Hamlet is not a philosophical symbol, not a mouthpiece of the ideas of Shakespeare himself or his era, but a specific person, whose words, expressing his deep personal experiences, therefore acquire special persuasiveness.
What features of the genre of tragedy-revenge can be found in “Hamlet”? How and why does this play go beyond this genre?
Hamlet’s revenge is not solved by a simple dagger blow. Even its practical implementation encounters serious obstacles. Claudius has a reliable guard, and he can not be approached. But the external obstacle is less significant than the ethical and political task facing the hero. To take revenge, he must commit murder, that is, the same crime that lies on the soul of Claudius. Hamlet’s revenge cannot be a secret murder, it must become a public punishment for the criminal. To do this, it must be made clear to all that Claudius is a base killer.
Hamlet has a second task – to convince his mother that she had committed a serious ethical violation by entering into an incestuous marriage. Hamlet’s revenge must be not only a personal but also a state act, and he is aware of that. This is the external side of a dramatic conflict.
Hamlet has his own ethics of revenge. He wants Claudius to know what the punishment is for him. For Hamlet, real revenge is not physical murder. He seeks to raise in Claudia the consciousness of his guilt. All the actions of the hero up to the scene of the “mousetrap” are dedicated to this goal. Hamlet wants Claudius to be aware of his crime, he wants to punish the enemy first with internal torment, pangs of conscience and only then strike so that he knows that he is punished not only by Hamlet, but ethical law, universal justice.
After killing Polonius, who hid behind a veil, Hamlet says:
As for him
Then I grieve; but the heavens commanded
They punished me and I punished him
That I may become their scourge and my servant.
In what seems to be a coincidence, Hamlet sees a manifestation of a higher will. Heaven has given him the mission to be the scourge and executor of what has determined them. This is how Hamlet views revenge.
For a long time the various tonality of tragedies, mixing of tragic with comic in them was noted. Usually Shakespeare’s comic book characters are low-ranking characters and clowns. There is no such clown in Hamlet. However, there are tertiary comic figures of Ozrik and the second nobleman at the beginning of the second scene of the fifth act. Comic Polonium. They are all ridiculed and the funniest. Serious and funny is interspersed in “Hamlet”, and sometimes merges.
When Hamlet describes to the queen that all people are food for worms, the joke is both a threat to the enemy in the struggle between them. Shakespeare constructs the action in such a way that the tragic tension is replaced by calm and mocking scenes. The fact that the serious is interspersed with the ridiculous, the tragic with the comic, the sublime with the mundane and the lowly, gives the impression of the true vitality of the action of his plays.
Mixing the serious with the funny, the tragic with the comic – a long-noted feature of Shakespeare’s drama. In “Hamlet” you can see this principle in action. Suffice it to recall at least the beginning of the scene in the cemetery. Comic figures of cemeteries appear before the audience; both roles are played by clowns, but even here clowning is different.
The first gravedigger belongs to the clowns, to speak wittily, who know how to amuse the audience with reasonable remarks, the second clown – from those comic characters who are the subject of ridicule. The first graveyard before our eyes shows that this simpleton is easy to circle around the finger.
Before the catastrophe that concludes the play, Shakespeare re-introduces the comic episode: Hamlet rejoices over Ozrik’s excessive courtly splendor. After all, in a few minutes there will be a catastrophe in which the whole royal family will die!
How relevant is the content of the play nowadays?
Hamlet’s monologues give readers and viewers the impression of universal significance of what is happening in the tragedy.
“Hamlet” – a tragedy, the deepest meaning of which is to realize evil, to seek to understand its roots, to understand the various forms of its manifestation and to find means to combat it. The artist created the image of a hero, stunned to the core by the discovery of evil. The pathos of the tragedy is outrage against the omnipotence of evil.
Love, friendship, marriage, the relationship of children and parents, external war and insurrection within the country – such a circle of topics directly involved in the play. And next to them are the philosophical and psychological problems over which Hamlet’s opinion fights: the meaning of human life and destiny, death and immortality, spiritual strength and weakness, vice and crime, the right to revenge and murder.
The content of the tragedy has eternal value and will always be relevant, regardless of time and place. The play raises eternal questions that have always worried and worried all mankind: how to fight evil, by what means and is it possible to defeat it? Is it worth living at all if life is full of evil and it is impossible to defeat it? What is true in life and what is a lie? How to distinguish real feelings from false ones? Can love be eternal? What is the meaning of human life in general?
Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet” – the greatest creation of human genius. In different periods of human development, philosophical thought again and again turned to the image of the Danish prince, each time finding in him a response to the most important issues of his time. Some sympathize with Hamlet, finding in him close features, others – do not admire Hamlet as a person, although they appreciate the tragedy of Shakespeare. Here are two extreme thoughts about him. Goethe calls the prince “a beautiful, pure, noble, highly moral being.” But the Russian writer Turgenev sees this hero quite differently: “He all lives for himself, he is selfish, he is a skeptic and always fiddles and carries with himself.”
At the beginning of the tragedy, Hamlet appears before us as a truly noble hero. He was widely educated for his time. His worldview is imbued with a belief in the omnipotence of reason. Hamlet revered art, fascinated by theater. Man seems to him a beautiful creature that lives in harmony with the world. With what pride he speaks of his father: “He was a man in the full sense of the word!”
Many consider Hamlet a cold thinker, rationalist and analyst. But look closely: Hamlet’s thought is not caused by averted observation, but by deep experience. Hamlet experiences several deep shocks one after another: the death of his father at the hands of Claudius, the hasty second marriage of his mother. With the death of his father and the betrayal of his mother for Hamlet came the complete collapse of the world in which he still lived.
For the vulnerable and the strongly sensitive nature, it is characteristic to extend personal tragedies to universal scales. It is the cosmic breadth of Hamlet’s experiences that makes his image great and immortal. In what happened in the royal family, Hamlet sees a symptom of general decomposition. Enmity, betrayal, lies permeate the relationship between close people. His mother betrayed her father’s memory – Hamlet concludes: “Oh, women! “Your name is treachery.” In the mind of the prince, love loses its high meaning, because in the most tender feeling lies the grain of betrayal. That’s why he advises Ophelia to go to a convent or marry a fool.
But Hamlet is not locked in his despair. He not only realizes that “the century has dislocated the joint”, but also considers himself called to restore world harmony. Of course, Hamlet would have preferred to devote himself to pursuits nobler than bloody revenge. He dreamed of indulging in truly human aspirations and interests. Any time different, a person would not have to see any evil or defile himself by colliding with it. But as a truly noble knight, the prince prepares for a decisive battle.
The madness of Hamlet is a mystery to all generations. The reason lying on the surface is the need to put Claudia’s vigilance to sleep. This reason was already in the ancient saga of Hamlet. But Shakespeare’s Hamlet does not lull Claudia’s vigilance, but intends to arouse his suspicions and anxiety. It’s like checking the authenticity of the Ghost’s words. In the news from the afterlife, Hamlet seeks real earthly evidence. Such is the scene of the mousetrap, such are the crazy languages of Hamlet, forcing Claudia to reveal herself.
Striking metaphorical generalization of Shakespeare – the whole course of the play leads us to believe that the madness of Hamlet is perfectly natural. After all, the crazy century, the crazy state is most naturally matched by a twisted prince. Such times and such moods were periodically repeated in the history of mankind. Thus, in the era of Brezhnev’s stagnation in certain strata of the intelligentsia, it was even fashionable to “go through a mental hospital,” to show off a slight madness.
The moment of the highest disorder in Hamlet’s mood is the monologue “To be or not to be?”. “To be”, of course, means not just to live, but to resist the circumstances of life. “Not to be” – to obey the “arrows of fierce fate.” To be, to fight – such a conclusion is made by the prince. But this conclusion is difficult for him. He realizes that the struggle will not give him joy, that living in a world of humiliation of humanity is difficult. Hamlet clearly sees one of the possible results of the struggle – death. One of the reasons for Hamlet’s tragedy is that circumstances demand action from him, and reflection paralyzes the will.
The difficult path of the hero of the tragedy to the realization of the need to fight for world justice. For long deliberations, the prince paid a disproportionate fee – at the end of the tragedy, not only the king dies, but also the queen-mother, and Laertes, and Hamlet himself. The innocent beautiful Ophelia also dies.
What time hero could Prince Hamlet be? Time that needs thinkers, artists, creators. Time that does not want blood. Time based on justice. So far, such a time can only dream of. Therefore, the hero of modernity is not the thinker Hamlet, but Laertes, who acts without reason. But the sympathies of the reader and the viewer are still on the side of the crazy and noble prince. Throughout his existence, he asserts the right to be human “in the full sense of the word.”
Belinsky wrote about the formation of Hamlet’s character: “From the child’s unconscious harmony and self-enjoyment of the spirit” he “through disharmony and struggle” went “into courageous and conscious harmony.” Because of doubts, madness, hesitation and weakness, Hamlet came to the highest stage of humanity, the stage of conscious chivalry and the struggle with fate.
Hamlet’s tragedy is surrounded by a halo of extraordinary significance. It is seen as one of the deepest incarnations of life in all its complexity and at the same time mystery.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hamlet:
Why the ghost wants Hamlet?
In fact, at first glance, the formidable Phantom could itself easily solve its problems. If he had appeared once to Claudius, and the goals formulated by him would have been achieved: the royal bed was cleansed of desecration and the vile fratricide was punished. In this case, the queen, most likely, would have remained alive. Not to mention the prince. Was the death of the son included in the plans of the Ghost? Judging by his words, no.
As well as there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of these words. But in reality it turned out differently. It turns out that the Ghost played a role beyond its will. And who is the director? Who set the rules by which the Queen of the Ghost did not see, and Hamlet and his comrades saw and heard? Obviously, Claudius the Ghost could not appear just like that. He had his own organic, that is, natural, inherent only to him, limitations, like each of us.
Apparently, our achievements depend not so much on our goals, no matter how wonderful they may be, but on our properties, that is, limitations, regardless of whether we are aware of them or not. Therefore, no matter what we achieve, the goal is never alone, always accompanying results are found that are significant for us and for others. And until you figure it out with yourself, you can never be sure that you are playing your own role, and not participate in someone else’s play. Like a ghost.
Did Hamlet follow the instructions of the Ghost?
On the one hand, since Claudius is killed, the task can be considered completed, albeit in violation of the estimated timelines. On the other hand, in the execution process, some additional results were achieved, which were not foreseen in the task, namely: Prince Hamlet, his mother Gertrude, his beloved girl Ophelia, the father of this girl Polonius, her brother Laertes, and also school friends died an unnatural death Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
That is, the executor of the order, as well as his closest friends and relatives, died. At the same time, the hero killed some of them with his own hand, while others he shamelessly sent to certain death or did not protect him properly.
Under these conditions, the answer to the question posed is no longer so unambiguous. We do not know with what words the Phantom met the soul of its son where it obviously went after all that had been done by young Hamlet. Options can be very different: from “Well done, son, did a great job!” to “Did I ask you about this!” In any case, at least one managerial conclusion can be made: even in the clearest direction it is impossible to indicate everything that should not be done during its execution. That is, without explanation, to be understood. And if people understand each other perfectly, then nothing is needed at all. And if they don’t understand, then things can turn out like a Ghost with Hamlet.
To be or not to be?
Is it too late for every person to ask questions that have to look for answers, as they say, to “Yes – No.” Are there any actions that I should never commit or not, and you can expect anything from me? Are there any ideas that I will never be a supporter of or will not have such ideas, and can I be convinced of anything?
Is a person born free and endowed with a conscience, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or do I have a different opinion on this? Questions may be very different, but, in any case, they relate to the basic rules by which we live. And maybe not only our personal fate, but also the fate of many other people depends on our answers.
Crucial here is the selection criterion. For Hamlet, this is nobility. We are free to choose another criterion, but how to make a choice about the selection criterion? Ultimately, our decisions manifest our beliefs, character and way of thinking. And the list of disasters against which the Danish prince considered it noble to raise weapons has changed little over the past few centuries.
This, as before, the injustice of the oppressors, the pain of rejected love, the arrogance of officials, delays in the courts, the humiliation of the proud – there is something to make a personal decision: whether to endure in silence or to end this in the struggle. Of course, one must be prepared to answer for one’s beliefs, that is, to pay a certain price, which will be higher than the firmness of our convictions. Therefore, the inevitable choice of each person is to be able to accept the challenges of life or not to be so.
How to write a Hamlet essay?
The general analysis scheme may include:
- The time and circumstances of writing the work. When indicating the time and circumstances of writing a work, you need to give a brief description of the socio-historical situation in society.
- The place of the work in the writer’s work. It is necessary to rely on knowledge of his biography, as well as information on the creative searches of the author and his aesthetic creed.
- Literary gender (epic, lyrics, drama). Information about the literary nature of a work is important because of its specificity and significance for understanding the ideological and artistic originality of the text.
- The genre of the work. The genre is an important means of text formation that determines the selection and organization of linguistic means, as well as the aspect and scale of reflection of the surrounding world in an artistic form.
- Author Position. How is the author’s position expressed (and expressed)? Is there an author’s vision for solving the problems posed in the work? The author’s position may be present in lyrical digressions, in descriptions of heroes and life. Therefore, when reading a work, try to notice such characteristics.
- Artistic meaning, techniques, revealing the idea of a work. To answer this point, take a look at the literary dictionary at the end of the textbook. There probably are definitions of many artistic means and techniques: epithets, comparisons, metaphors and others. Do not be lazy to look and remember the most common of them, to find later in the text.
- The main problems of the work. Definition of the problems of a literary work, i.e. posing in it complex vital and socially important issues, tasks requiring resolution, is the result of a generalization of events, episodes, situations reflected in the work. The choice of problems expresses the author’s individuality, the worldview of the writer, his picture of the world.
- Conclusion. You can start the conclusion with the words: “so …”, “summing up the results …”, “based on the research …”. The following are the tasks that have been solved in the course of the work done. It is also necessary to tell that it was not possible to investigate and disclose what problems arose during this, which impeded the research process.