Hamlet's Second Soliloquy Essay

Words: 928
Pages: 4


Coming immediately after the meeting with the Ghost of Hamlet’s father, Shakespeare uses his second soliloquy to present Hamlet’s initial responses to his new role of revenger. Shakespeare is not hesitant in foreboding the religious and metaphysical implications of this role, something widely explored in Elizabethan revenge tragedy, doing so in the first lines as Hamlet makes an invocation to ‘all you host of heaven’ and ‘earth’. Hamlet is shown to impulsively rationalize the ethical issues behind his task as he views it as a divine ordinance of justice, his fatalistic view reiterated at the end of scene 5 with the rhyming couplet ‘O cursed spite,/That ever I was born to set it right’. These ideas are
…show more content…
The image of Claudius as a ‘smiling’ villain, and Hamlet’s point that ‘one may smile, and smile, and be a villain’, highlights the recurring idea of appearance against reality, marking similarities with the corrupt characters in The Revenger’s Tragedy whose ‘mask’ can only be perceived by ‘that eternal eye that sees through flesh and all’. These Machiavellian politics of spectacle and persona highlighted by Hamlet show Shakespeare’s critique of the Elizabethan aristocracy, who at the time wore extravagant clothing by law to protect the social order and their apparent elitism; one that does not match the reality of their sinful personalities, tainted by scheming and narcissistic ambition.

The somewhat idiosyncratic fluctuations of Hamlet’s emotions and intentions are epitomized at the end of his second soliloquy. After denouncing and erasing the ‘trivial fond records’ of education from his memory, Hamlet can’t help but return quite comically to his preoccupation as a scholar, as he notes down (whether literally or mentally) the Ghost’s final words as a sort of mnemonic to assist him in his task. The use of iambic pentameter in these words (‘Adieu, adieu, remember me’) – coupled with the use of repetition and consonance – give them an ambiguous tone that could be ominous as much as it is affectionate. The humour is certainly dark though, as there is something foreboding about the