The first Soliloquy of Hamlet appears in act one scene two. It falls after Claudius and Gertrude announce their marriage to the kingdom, and before Horatio and Marcellus tell Hamlet about seeing the ghost. Shakespeare loads this Soliloquy with stylistic devices that help introduce themes, show conflict, show character, and set the tone.
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We first see a metaphor comparing Hamlet’s flesh to melting ice. This indicates how depressed he feels. He wishes he could melt away and die, but he doesn’t kill himself because it is against the law of the church. The apostrophe “O God, God,” along with the personification of the world show the desperation and sadness of Hamlet. “Tis an unweeded garden,” is the beginning of a metaphor that extends throughout the book. Shakespeare is comparing Denmark (in what is more seeable in later soliloquies) to Eden. This is the beginning of a major theme throughout Hamlet. That is the theme of corruption, and how it spreads.
Next we see that how great of a King Hamlet Sr. was compared to Claudius. This is done through the metaphor “Hyperion to a satyr.” Shakespeare also uses alludes saying that the King would shield the winds from heaven from Gertrude’s face. This displays the reader how loving a husband he was. Then a rhetorical question is use to show how painful all these memories are to him. Now we see a series of imagery and allusions of how Gertrude acted toward the King. To indication how short a period of time it was between the Kings death and Gertrude’s remarriage we see an allusion of her funeral shoes not be old. Also a metaphor is used comparing her to a Niobe at the funeral, and an allusion saying a beast would mourn longer than she did. These two literary devices work together to help start another important theme in Hamlet. This is the theme of appearance vs. reality. Gertrude appeared to be mournful and sorrowed at her husband’s death, but yet she marries his brother a month later.
Shakespeare then takes two metaphors (Hamlet to Hercules and the King to Claudius) and compares them. This shows how different and superior the King was to his brother. We see another allusion of Gertrude marring while the salt from her “Unrighteous tears,” are still on her face. This confirms the speed of her remarriage. The personification of tears also exemplifies the belief that Gertrude was acting to be sad. This is also appearance vs. reality. Then speed is personified to implement again how short the time span was. The sheets are also personified to be incestuous. This demonstrates that with the speed of the marriage it is illegal by the church. Shakespeare then ends the soliloquy with the personification of Hamlet breaking his heart by holding his tongue. This exhibits to the read that Hamlet is going to have a hard time holding all this in, but that he must not say anything to his mother.
The first soliloquy plays a major role of setting up two themes (corruption and appearance vs. reality) and setting up conflict. It allows the reader to see into Hamlet’s mind and learn more about his character while possibilities of a conflict arise. The soliloquy also sets up a lot of background information. We learn about past events that other wise could not have been shown. The first soliloquy also sets a tone of frustration that continues until the second.