The first soliloquy of Hamlet takes place early in the play, and Hamlet expresses his lachrymose feelings to the reader and how he wishes that God “had not fixed his cannon ‘gainst self-slaughter. ” He explains that only two months after his father’s death, his mother “married with my uncle, my father’s brother, but no more like my father than I to Hercules. ” While Hamlet does not examine his identity or character immediately, he illustrates the cause of his sorrow.
Hamlet also contrasts his father from his uncle saying that they have nothing in common like he does to Hercules. This could be an underlying denouncement of his own character, and by contrasting himself to Hercules â€“ a symbol of strength in both body and mind, he suggests that he lacks self-worth or self-esteem. Nevertheless, it is apparent to the reader that Hamlet is suicidal, as he contemplates it within the first line of the soliloquy.
In his next soliloquy Hamlet reveals his conflict: he knows he must avenge his father, but he hesitates to commit pre-meditated murder. He calls himself a “rogue and peasant slave” and states that he, the “player in a fiction, in a dream of passion,” is not hastened to his cause, and “can say nothing for a king upon whose property and most dear life a damned defeat was made. ” He condemns himself and asks: “Am I a coward? Who calls me villain? Breaks my pate across? Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
I should take it; for it cannot be but I am pigeon-livered. ” But in justification to himself, he exclaims that he shall strike a play – a reenactment of his father’s murder, and he states: “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king. ” In his soliloquy, Hamlet derives his feelings of himself as a coward because he, “the son of a dear father murdered, prompted to revenge by heaven and hell,” does nothing to avenge his father. What Hamlet fails to see is the fact that he is a teenager, a man in adolescence.
In his mature, adult mind, he knows that he must avenge his father, but there lives an innocent child in his conscience who does not want to commit murder; and Hamlet perceives this as cowardice. It seems as though Hamlet is struggling with what he knows he must do, and actually doing it. While instead of pursuing his father’s revenge, he lets his emotions dictate his actions in this case, his lack of action. So, in self-justification, he tucks away his apprehension and decides to seek proof of Claudius’s murder of Hamlet’s father.
Furthermore, Hamlet is beginning to question his identity as a “pigeon-livered coward. ” What is more noteworthy, however, is that both soliloquies exhibit Hamlet to be an immature boy, as he speaks on impulses of emotion, rather than logic itself. Next, in one of the most famous soliloquies in the English language, Hamlet again contemplates the subject of suicide, but he does not do so on impulses of emotion. Instead, his contemplation is based on reason. “To be or not to be, that is the question: whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer outrageous fortuneâ€¦or end them.
To die, to sleep- no more- and by a sleep to say we end the heartacheâ€¦’Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. For who would bear the whips and scorns of timeâ€¦who would fardels bear, to grunt and sweat under a weary life, but that the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns, puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thoughtâ€¦and loses the name of action.
In this soliloquy, Hamlet philosophizes about the right of one to take one’s own life. While scholars believe that Hamlet is contemplating about taking his own life, it is noteworthy to mention that he says nothing that suggests that he, as an individual is thinking of taking his own life. He uses the words “we,” “us,” and the indefinite “who. ” Therefore, he must be referring to humanity as a whole. While Hamlet is not directly attempting to find his identity, he evidences his maturity to the reader by philosophizing, instead of merely speaking on emotion alone.
Hamlet also concludes that humans are afraid to take their own life because of their fear of the unknown. Thus, he is indirectly finding his identity, by identifying simple, human nature â€“ and with this identification, he brings himself one step closer to knowing himself. With his final soliloquy, Hamlet finds his identity, and decides that he will carry out his vengeance upon Claudius. First he answers his question to himself: “What is a man, in his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more. As he continues to speak, it becomes evident to the reader that Hamlet realizes his faults as a character because he says: “Now, whether it be bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple of thinking too precisely on th’ event â€“ I do not know why yet I live to say ‘This thing’s to do,’ since I have cause, and will, and strength, and means to do’t. ”
Hamlet, after witnessing the loyalty of Fortinbras’s troops toward their cause, asks himself: “How stand I then, that have a father killed, a mother stained, excitements of my reason and my blood, while to my shame I see twenty thousand men fight for a plot? And after this he declares “from this time forth my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth! ” Finally, after contemplations, philosophizing, and searching for his purpose and identity, it seems that Hamlet understands himself as a person. He confronts his apprehension, and after witnessing a horde of men fighting for a single cause, Hamlet undergoes a revelation of his purpose â€“ to avenge his father. With the search for his identity over, Hamlet’s whole position in the chain of events transforms from reluctant to immerse with cravings for revenge.
In conclusion, Hamlet’s soliloquies illustrate the search for his identity. With every soliloquy, Hamlet’s maturity increases, and undergoes a change from an impulsive child to a fate-accepting adult. Furthermore, every soliloquy exhibits Hamlet’s feelings of insecurity with himself, except the final soliloquy. It is in his final speech that Hamlet accepts himself for who he is, and determines that he is Hamlet, a revenge-seeking prince on a quest for his father’s vengeance.