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Soliloquy Essay – Theatre and Language in the Soliloquies of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Theatre and Language in the Soliloquies of Hamlet

The first Folio is prefaced with an address to the reader to “Read him again and again”. In terms of words and action, Hamlet is the most self conscious play about its own theatricality. Words and actions throughout the play are inextricably linked, as is the notion of “playing” a part.

From the outset of the play we see evidence of the external show compared with the underlying reality. In Act One, Hamlet’s speech to Gertrude (Nay seems…etc) shows us the Prince talking about actions that a man “might play” and also about what is “inside” him which “passes show”. (NB “Action” in Elizabethan definition meant “acting”)

Throughout the play we see inner reality beneath the surface performances of not only Hamlet, but other characters, too. Hamlet has only “one-liners” at the beginning of the play until we hear his first soliloquy, which is an attempt to look at “that within, which passes show”.

The soliloquies create a bond between the character and the audience and were a dramatic convention inherited from Greek drama. By the time of Shakespeare they had moved away from commentaries on the plot and events of the play and had become illustrative of the inner thoughts of the character. In the soliloquy the character tells the truth as he perceives it, although “truth” is subjective and can have different meanings for different characters.

In Hamlet we have seven soliloquies, five major and two smaller ones, and Hamlet’s character is revealed through them as the play progresses.

Hazlitt – “This is that Hamlet the Dane…whom we remember…but all whose thoughts we know as well as we know our own..Reality is in the reader’s mind..It is we who are Ham…

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…so to the grave. Hamlet describes himself as “Crawling between earth and heaven”. Shakespeare’s audience would have had a physical picture of this before them, which added great weight to the imagery of his text, as of course would the scuffle over Ophelia’s corpse.

At the end of the play Hamlet stops musing and the language becomes very direct and simple, “there is a divinity..” “the readiness is all”. In the final scene Hamlet “acts” in all senses of the word, and “theatre” takes over. The final speeches are terse and contain references to the theatricality of the occasion. he refers to the “mutes” (extras on stage) and the “audience to this act”. Fortinbras commands him to be “carried to the stage”, perhaps a last comment on a play which is characterised so much as actors playing to actors in a kind of Chinese box puzzle of outward show and inner secrets.

Essay About Love and Hate in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

For a love story, Romeo and Juliet has more violence and bloodshed than most TV mini-series. The play begins with a riot, ends with a double suicide, and in between has three murders. And all this takes place in the span of four short days. Of course, when you’re dealing with love and passion, you’re operating on an elemental level. The funny thing is that they have their roots in the same soil. It is common for love to turn to hate – in the blink of an eye.

Love and hate are twin sons of different mothers, separated at birth. They have a doubleness. This ambiguity is reflected throughout Romeo and Juliet, whose language is riddled with oxymorons. “O brawling love, O loving hate,” Romeo cries in the play’s very first scene, using a figure of speech and setting up a theme that will be played out during the next five acts.

Like the poles of an electrical circuit between which runs the high voltage of emotions, love and hate create a dialogue and a dialectic, a dynamic tension which powers the action and generates heat.

Hot Enough for You?

When I noticed that two of the plays this season had settings in Verona, I decided to find out a thing or two about the place. Reading the section on “climate” in Harold Rose’s rather chatty book Your Guide to Northern Italy, I noted that “Italy is very hot in summer” and that Rose recommends that the smart traveler should “avoid August if you can” because it is the “hottest month.” Checking another book, I discovered that Rose, in a typically English way, was understating the severity of the summer weather rather considerably. The second book pointed out that there are times when Scirocco winds “sweep Saharan conditions northward”; winds which, by the time they reach Italy, bring “humid, stifling weather” with temperatures commonly topping the 100 degree mark.

After reading this, a great deal of the violence in Romeo and Juliet became more understandable: they’re all short-tempered because of the heat! This is even noted by Benvolio when he warns Mercutio that “The day is hot, and Capulet’s abroad,/ And if we meet we shall not scape a brawl,/ For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.” Unfortunately, he warns too late, and the brawl he seeks to avoid is met in the form of Tybalt.

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