Hamlet’s First Soliloquy
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.
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