Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Soliloquies -- A Guest Post by Kelda

"The Soliloquies"
by Kelda

What got me started on this was a prof's assertion that soliloquies "by definition must be true," for no one can lie to him/herself. Hamlet's soliloquies show that he is not necessarily "putting an antic disposition" on. There are times that he behaves wildly: after the ghost, with Ophelia, with R&G after the Play within a play, but those are the manic side of his illness, as uncontrolled as the bouts of depression.

Here I will go through each soliloquy, then, and discuss them and how they help explore Hamlet's depression and support my idea that he is bi-polar.

ACT I, SCENE 5, line 5

(This immediately follows the ghost's disappearance, and as he finishes, Horatio and Marcellus find him. They want to know of course what the ghost had to say. Now, okay, Hamlet is spewing "wild and whirling words" and accuses both of being untrustworthy. Once in awhile, Horatio just has to snap back. Hamlet says, "There's ne'er a villain dwelling in Denmark but he's an errant villain." Yes, Horatio is usually soft spoken, but here his nerves and the cold night combine to make him snap back, "It takes no ghost, my lord, to come from the grave to tell us this." This tells us that he'll be ready to speak up about anything.)
O all you host of heaven! O earth! What else?
And shall I couple hell? Hold, hold, my heart!
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee?
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee?
Yea, from the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past
That youth and observation copied there,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix'd with baser matter. Yes, by heaven!
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables! Meet it is I set it down
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I am sure it may be so in Denmark. [Writes.]
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word:
It is 'Adieu, adieu! Remember me.'
I have sworn't.
(Notice that Hamlet's first curse is on his mother, not Claudius.)
ACT I,SCENE II, line 12
(Claudius and Gertrude have accepted Hamlet's "fair and loving" agreement to stay in Denmark. I think Claudius overthought this, Y'know the motto: "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer." Hamlet remains in the room alone.)
O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah, fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead! Nay, not so much, not two.
So excellent a king, that was to this
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on; and yet, within a month-
Let me not think on't! Frailty, thy name is woman!-
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father's body
Like Niobe, all tears- why she, even she
(O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourn'd longer) married with my uncle;
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules. Within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good.
But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue!
(Again, he principally is angry toward his mother; Claudius just gets by in mention. It's full of exclamation marks -- is he already popping manic? Probably not.)

ACT II, SCENE II, Line 249

(Heeeere they are, R&G. Notice they start out with a string of lies. So it takes no time at all to contrast them with Horatio. Hamlet only needs about 20 lines to get them to admit they are there at the request of the king and queen. Okay, technically not a soliloquy, because R&G are there -- but they're not listening to anything he says until they think he has made a bawdy joke. And Hamlet is again on his theme of  the pollution of the "goodly earth.")
I have of late- but wherefore I know not- lost all my
mirth, forgone all custom of exercises*; and indeed, it goes so
heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth,
seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the
air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical
roof fretted with golden fire- why, it appeareth no other thing
to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a
piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in
faculties! in form and moving how express and admirable! in
action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the
beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! And yet to me what
is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me- no, nor woman
neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
(* "forgone all custom of exercise:" remember this: Hamlet tries to reverse this with Horatio, who doesn't let him get away with it.)

O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That, from her working, all his visage wann'd,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!
For Hecuba!
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech;
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing! No, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by th' nose? gives me the lie i' th' throat
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this, ha?
'Swounds, I should take it! for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave's offal. Bloody bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
O, vengeance!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murther'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must (like a whore) unpack my heart with words
And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
A scullion!
Fie upon't! foh! About, my brain! Hum, I have heard
That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murther, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ, I'll have these Players
Play something like the murther of my father
Before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick. If he but blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be a devil; and the devil hath power
T' assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me. I'll have grounds
More relative than this. The play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.
(Two "ears" references, lol. This is the longest soliloquy, and it has three distinctive mood changes, at least as Campbell Scott plays it. He comes into large empty room where there is life-size portrait of Claudius hanging high on the wall, with an ornate chair beneath it. He jumps on the chair and wrestles the portrait to the floor, pinning him under it. There's a pause -- the only thing showing of CS is his hands still gripping the frame. There is a low chuckle as he wriggles free, going into "what a rogue and peasant slave am I" and several lines comparing himself to the skill of the First Player. This portion of the soliloquy is self-pitying, but for the first time we see the anger as he builds into "Am I a coward?" He takes control of himself with "About, my brain." He deliberately pulls that dangerous (to himself) mood down, and recalls that the ghost may have been a devil feeding on his mood disorder, and he ends with a more moderate, hopeful note of the Play with in a play. Had I been the Director of the Week ~grin~ I would have had Hamlet slash the portrait at the middle, anger-ridden part of the speech. The king and queen would have noticed it as they passed through the room on their way to play, certainly stirring the king's conscience,)


To be, or not to be- that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die- to sleep-
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die- to sleep.
To sleep- perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death-
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller 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 thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.- Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia!- Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins rememb'red.
(In the Campbell Scott version, he is wandering about as the soliloquy begins, carrying a book. He is agitated. He throws himself into a chair, and after a few moments of reflection, he removes his reading glasses and slams them into a side table, shattering them. He touches the tip of the largest shard to his tongue, testing its sharpness.  He cuts three long lines on the inside of his arm. My prof friend, when he saw this, said, "Oh! So we know he means it!" Bipolar moods run in cycles -- sometimes lengthy, sometimes what's called "quick cycling" in a case of hours or even minutes. That can be difficult to deal with. The greatest danger of suicide is not in the deepest depression, when the sufferer often is too overwhelmed to plan and act. It is when the depression begins to lift, and as the manic phase begins. Hamlet is tottering on the brink here. He sees Ophelia, and his mood jumps another notch. But he was a few moments ago referring to the "pangs of desprised love," and unfortunately Ophelia has been too well coached by her father. Hamlet's mania and his related anger run away with his good judgement, resulting in verbal and often physical abuse, shaking her, pushing her against the wall.  And after a too-brief meeting with Horatio, who doesn't have time to dampen his mood, he leaps straight into the over-stimulation of the Play within the play. You'll see him soon in full manic mood with R&G.)

ACT III, SCENE III, line 377

(Immediately after the Play within a play. Backing up a little before before the soliloquy: now you see an all-out manic mood from Hamlet -- he engages in the aforementioned "wild and whirling words" with Horatio, who seems to be amused, and quips "You might have rhymed it." Then R&G make their entrance, and Hamlet turns on them, not just with words, but in most productions he physically assaults one or even both of them, and Polonius gets in on the melee, bearing a message from Gertrude. Hamlet finally ends with "Leave me, friends." I get angry that he has included Horatio with the others. So then, finally to the soliloquy.)

'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on. Soft! now to my mother!
O heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom.
Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites-
**How in my words somever she be shent,
To give them seals never, my soul, consent!**
(**lol -please tell ME what these lines mean!)

(Wherein we catch the conscience of the king.)
O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
A brother's murther! Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will.
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent,
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence?
And what's in prayer but this twofold force,
To be forestalled ere we come to fall,
Or pardon'd being down? Then I'll look up;
My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? 'Forgive me my foul murther'?
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murther-
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardon'd and retain th' offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law; but 'tis not so above.
There is no shuffling; there the action lies
In his true nature, and we ourselves compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence. What then? What rests?
Try what repentance can. What can it not?
Yet what can it when one cannot repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
Art more engag'd! Help, angels! Make assay.
Bow, stubborn knees; and heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe!
All may be well.
(There's an interesting image in the last three lines. Look back at ACT I, SCENE V beginning 93, where Hamlet says: "Hold, hold, my heart; and you, my sinews, grow not instant old, but bear me  stiffly up.'" One wants strength to stand, the other wants his heart and sinews to bow before God. Now, this comes from my seminary work and after all these years, I can't be certain I'm getting it right- -the differences are difficult for me, so feel free to correct me! Regarding the Catholic/Protestant attitudes of forgiveness: The Catholic must confess to a priest and perform the assigned penance, so s/he is forgiven on sort of an ongoing, repetitive basis. The Protestant is to confess directly to God (no middle-man cleric) and accept that his/her forgiveness is not so much within the scope of actions (penance) as it is the Grace of God. Claudius strikes me as leaning toward Catholicism -- but where in Denmark could he have found a confessor, and how could he atone, indeed, when he will not surrender his queen, crown or ambition? Another minor point: Protestants pray only to God; Catholics also pray to saints and angels as go-betweens with the Divine, and Claudius implores the intervention of angels.)

Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
And now I'll do't. And so he goes to heaven,
And so am I reveng'd. That would be scann'd.
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.
Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge!
He took my father grossly, full of bread,
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
And how his audit stands, who knows save heaven?
But in our circumstance and course of thought,
'Tis heavy with him; and am I then reveng'd,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?
Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent.
When he is drunk asleep; or in his rage;
Or in th' incestuous pleasure of his bed;
At gaming, swearing, or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in't-
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
And that his soul may be as damn'd and black
As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays.
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.
(Hamlet exits; the king, rising, says, "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.  Words without thoughts never to heaven go.")
(Maybe it's just bad luck on Hamlet's part that Claudius isn't sincere in his prayers. Although,  I think Claudius is remorseful. Depending on just when the play was set in Denmark's history, he might have escaped death in favor of life exile. On the other hand, he might have died by 'spread eagle,' where a person is tied face down over a rock, his back and rib cage cut open and his lungs pulled out. That would be bloody enough for even Shakespeare, though would have to be off-stage -- someone, likely Hamlet, would have to describe it.)

And, England, if my love thou hold'st at aught,-
As my great power thereof may give thee sense,
Since yet thy cicatrice looks raw and red
After the Danish sword, and thy free awe
Pays homage to us,- thou mayst not coldly set
Our sovereign process, which imports at full,
By letters congruing to that effect,
The present death of Hamlet. Do it, England;
For like the hectic in my blood he rages,
And thou must cure me. Till I know 'tis done,
Howe'er my haps, my joys were ne'er begun.
(What do you think of Claudius' decision to push off on England the murder of Hamlet? My first thought was, "Oh yeah -- he fooled everyone but God with his remorse soliloquy." The question which often comes up in these few lines, is do R&G know what's in that letter?? I'll leave that to discuss in ACT/SCENE section.)

ACT IV, SCENE IV, line 37

(Hamlet is at the dock, waiting for his departure. This is often set at dusk, with many campfires burning in the distance. It is cold, and the Prince has been hustled out without a cloak. I remember the first time I saw the soldiers tie his wrists -- I actually gasped aloud that a Prince would be treated so! In my story I'm writing, "Remember Me," Horatio makes his way to the dock, clasping a cloak around his friend's shoulders, and showing him a small knife and Old King Hamlet's signet ring pinned in a fold. When he leaves, reluctantly, Hamlet questions one of the Norwegian soldiers about their mission.)
How all occasions do inform against me
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
Sure he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To fust in us unus'd. Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on th' event,-
A thought which, quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward,- I do not know
Why yet I live to say 'This thing's to do,'
Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means
To do't. Examples gross as earth exhort me.
Witness this army of such mass and charge,
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit, with divine ambition puff'd,
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
Even for an eggshell. Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honour's at the stake. How stand I then,
That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep, while to my shame I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men
That for a fantasy and trick of fame
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain? O, from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!
​( Hamlet is taken aback, maybe somewhat ashamed, to see a great army -- supposedly -- dispatched to certain death. He is almost, but not quite, slipping into his depression. Why he calls Fortinbras a delicate and tender prince, I do not know! Assuming directors haven't excised Fortinbras entirely, Claudius' ambassadors have assured him that this is not an invasion, but simply passage to Poland for a war larger than little Denmark. Again with the reference to cowardness, although he somewhat begrudgingly does allow himself 1/4 part wisdom now. The Norwegian army "finds quarrel in a straw," while he has the burden of revenge for his father. His mania holds as he swears to keep his thoughts bloody. His first strike is by proxy R&G, which IMHO is a nice start.)

(Note from Hamlette:  Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights into all the soliloquies, Kelda!  I'm especially fascinated by your ideas about whether they might show that Hamlet is bi-polar.  Thank you!)


  1. Thank you for all of your clean-up on this! I was flirting with carpal tunnel syndrome. ~ow~ worst it had been before this was Seminary final exam requiring written answers to 200 questions!


    1. You're welcome! I once had the early symptoms of CTS, and that was pretty horrible, so I was happy to help out :-)


What do you think?

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)