Throughout William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the author’s utilization of soliloquies aides in developing the protagonist’s character. In Hamlet’s soliloquy found in Act II, Scene II, Shakespeare’s choice of words and imagery reveal his struggle to act with certainty. Furthermore, Hamlet’s contemplative and philosophical disposition is evident in his marrying of thought with action; a characteristic that is not so much seen in his contemporaries. Finally, Hamlet’s resolution in proclaiming, “The play’s the thing…” (591) exposes a logical intellect that often appears to vanish in the company of others. Thus, Hamlet’s second soliloquy provides the audience with an opportunity to observe the main character as he would act uninhibited by the presence of other characters. The diction and imagery of the said passage portray Hamlet as a passionately natured young man, attempting to fuse reason and philosophy in order to discover a certain truth pertaining to the mysterious death of his father.
Hamlet’s self criticism runs rampant in his second soliloquy, exposing his strife with the impossibility of certainty. In fact, he begins this soliloquy by exclaiming that he is a “rogue” (533) and “peasant slave” (533). Hamlet believes himself to be a low-life and a vagrant- quite a paradoxical assertion for a noble prince. He slanders his own name, labeling himself as “pigeon-liver’d” (562) and proclaiming that he “lack gall” (562). This self-induced verbal abuse reveals a certain disgust that Hamlet feels for being unable to act with unwavering certainty. For this reason, Hamlet both respects and resents the player he encounters prior to his soliloquy. The young prince admires the actors talent and passion, painting a vivid picture of a man whose soul has been torn to the core with “his visage waned” (337), “tears in his eyes” (338), and “a broken voice” (339) among other attributes. Yet, Hamlet also shows a sense of indignation towards this player, for he is able to summon up so great a passion for someone that is of no value to him while Hamlet cannot stir to action over his dearly departed father. He questions how the actor would respond had he the same “inspiration” that burdens Hamlet, concluding the player would “drown the stage with tears/ and cleave the general ear with horrid speech” (545-546). Hamlet, then ponders how his motivation would arouse so great an emotion in one man but lies dormant in himself. Thus any indignation Hamlet has for the player only mirrors the resentment that he feels for his own state of being.
It should be noted that although Hamlet’s enraged discontent for his inability to act borders on the rim of sanity, the character’s recognition of these faults exposes a more reflective and sound quality of the impassioned prince. Hamlet claims to be “unpregnant of my cause” (552), further displaying an overwhelming sense of dejection for not being spurred to act. Yet it would seem to the audience that his unending struggle to determine whether and how to act shows a dedication to his cause that even Hamlet himself might not acknowledge. Thus, Hamlet contemplates how one ought to act given his situation, and it is clear to the audience that their protagonist is indeed philosophical. However, this soliloquy proves to further Hamlet as an enigmatic character in regards to the play as a whole. At this moment, the prince questions his actions and deliberates whether these very actions will lead him to heaven or hell, stating in a matter of fact tone, “The spirit that I have seen/May be a devil…” (538,539). However, when Hamlet does act, he does so rashly and with surprising swiftness. Nonetheless, when examining soliloquy II in isolation of the play, the audience can deduce that Hamlet embodies an insightful disposition.
Hamlet’s philosophical nature is kept in check by a logical intellect. In this soliloquy it becomes clear to the audience that Hamlet does plan to avenge his father’s death so long as he can prove that it was, in fact, Claudius who committed the murder. His resolution, therefore, is to observe his uncle’s reaction to the players as they perform a scene similar to the murder of his father. Hamlet no doubt expresses his attitude towards the potential criminal, his uncle, in stating what course of action the ghost’s words should have aroused him to take. He should have fed “this slave’s offal” (565) to the vultures. He should have sought vengeance on this “remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain” (567). These words illustrate the thoughts of a man who is enveloped in hatred, and Shakespeare’s use of fricatives enhances the image of Hamlet’s turbulent state of mind. Yet Hamlet’s dual nature reveals itself once gain, for a man who should be wholly controlled by an unrelenting scorn, the scholarly prince turns to logic, or what he deems as logic, in his ultimate resolution. Hamlet’s priority and inclination is to avenge his father’s death so long as he can confirm that his uncle is the murder. The players, will then, validate or refute any suspicions that Hamlet has and he will determine his course of action from the outcome of the play- specifically the affect the play has on King Claudius. In Hamlet’s mind, it is a perfectly logical solution to a rather illogical situation. In stating “The play’s the thing/Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” (591,592), Hamlet has managed to subdue his fury and the audience is left with what seems to be a rational and controlled Hamlet. Despite this sense of steadfast resolution, Shakespeare’s combined use of the fricative “c” and nasal “ng” sounds continue the chaotic tone of the soliloquy while arousing a sense of anticipation respectively.
In Hamlet’s second soliloquy of William Shakespeare’s 17th century play, the audience observes the duality of the main character’s personality. In many aspects, Hamlet is revealed to be the ultimate university scholar, using both reason and reflection to determine a proper course of action. His self-loathing results from his commitment to know the truth with certainty. In his search for this certainty, Hamlet deals with the complexity of thought and action. Shakespeare’s use of words and imagery, then, develop Hamlet as a deeply passionate character who is both contemplative and logically competent.