In this soliloquy, Hamlet’s tone changes from being frustrated and irritated to sure, powerful, and bloodthirsty. Hamlet begins speaking in a frustrated manner, beating himself up that although there is so much around him that should motivate him to take revenge against his uncle, he has not. Shakespeare’s diction, such as “dull” (4.4.
35) and “beast” (4.4.37) show Hamlet’s disgust with only living like an animal, just sleeping and eating. Hamlet is frustrated since he has been lazy, which was not God’s intention. He cannot even fight for a worthy cause dear to his heart, but Fortinbras’ men die for a meaningless reason.
Shakespeare uses particular words such as “death” (4.4.55), “danger dare” (4.4.55), “eggshell” (4.4.
56), and “honor” (4.4.59) to show that Fortinbras’ men are braver than Hamlet since they take action. For this, Hamlet is irritated since they are fighting for an eggshell, a simple and useless item. However, this irritation sparks a realization which allows a powerful ending to the soliloquy. Hamlet vows to only have “bloody” (4.4.
69) thoughts. At this point, Hamlet is seeking revenge, but more importantly, is going to take action. This whole soliloquy is a call to action for Hamlet.What is Hamlet trying to say? What is his purpose and overall message?Throughout the play, and even during the play within the play, Hamlet has contemplated killing his uncle, King Claudius.
Hamlet first distinguishes the true intentions of the ghost, whether they are good or evil. Therefore, his constant thinking has delayed his action. However, in one of his most famous soliloquies, Hamlet looks at his current situation and realizes his path moving forward. After crossing paths with Fortinbras on his way to Poland, Hamlet is alone and therefore reveals his inner thoughts about his revenge plans. Hamlet begins by saying, “How all occasions do inform against me / And spur my dull revenge” (4.4.34-35). Hamlet establishes that for the next thirty lines, his actions regarding revenge will be questioned.
Although he does not say each instance specifically, Hamlet references the many “occasions” that should have motivated his revenge immediately. Some of these include his father being murdered by Claudius, his mother, according to Hamlet, in an incestuous marriage, and his best friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern working for the King. These instances in Hamlet’s life should drive him to take revenge, but he has not taken action.Hamlet says that humans are merely beasts if they only “sleep and feed” (4.4.37). God equipped humans with capabilities to be used. Hamlet’s actions are similar to an animal and he calls himself a coward for overthinking his situation.
He has all the reasons to avenge his father’s death, but he has not taken action. This is similar to Hamlet’s reaction in act 2 scene 2 after the player gives a speech about Hecuba. Hamlet essentially says: why would he show emotion for Hecuba since she means nothing to him. Hamlet continues by saying, just imagine how he might act if his emotions were real.
This foreshadows Hamlet’s soliloquy since Hamlet has justified feelings. His father was killed and his “mother stained” (4.4.60): two actions against people whom Hamlet loves. Therefore, this warrants action.
Furthermore, Hamlet references Fortinbras’s army of twenty thousand fighting “for an eggshell” (4.456). Although these men are not fighting for a great reason, when “honor’s at the stake” (4.4.59), they fight to their “imminent death” (4.4.
63). This shows how Hamlet should act since his justification for seeking revenge is far greater than this army’s reasons for going to battle. Since these soldiers “go to their graves like beds” (4.4.65), Hamlet acknowledges that he must take action and have his “thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth” (4.4.69).
In this soliloquy, Hamlet realizes that it is necessary to take action now. For too long, he has worried about the aftermath of murdering his uncle, but now he has been motivated by Fortinbras’ army willing to die for a worthless cause. This soliloquy is a representation of Hamlet’s last time dwelling on killing his uncle.What does the soliloquy say about human nature?This soliloquy makes multiple notions about human nature. Throughout the entire soliloquy, Hamlet explores his lack of action. When Hamlet says, “He has made us with such a large discourse…gave us not the capability and god-like reason / To fust in us unused” (4.
4.38-41), he is referencing God. Hamlet is saying that God made humans to think and respond, not let these capabilities become unused. Hamlet insinuates that humans have a “god-like reason” (4.4.40), but it is not used and will just waste away inside humans. In addition, Hamlet acknowledges the characteristics of both animals and humans. Whereas humans have the ability to think and act, beasts just sleep and eat.
Hamlet has been thinking constantly about his revenge plans, but in this soliloquy, it is shown that thinking through everything will not allow Hamlet to accomplish his goal. Dwelling on something causes humans to not begin and therefore not act. Humans are mostly cowards.Furthermore, it is human nature to want power and authority.
For example, Fortinbras’ army is striving for more power and Claudius killed his brother to take control of the kingdom. However, up until this soliloquy, Hamlet has not taken action to achieve power. At the end of this soliloquy, Hamlet finally follows human nature and decides to take action and have power over Claudius. Finally, Hamlet’s idea of seeking revenge, though not first introduced in this soliloquy is a natural human reaction to being wronged.
Throughout this entire play, Hamlet is showing this element of human nature.Are there any literary techniques used such as analogy, metaphor, irony, personification, similes, hyperbole, puns, etc? If so, what impact does this have?This soliloquy is filled with literary techniques, including metaphors, alliterations, similes, strong imaging, and foreshadowing. Shakespeare incorporates metaphors into Hamlet’s soliloquy to help describe Hamlet’s irritation with his lack of action and Fortinbras’ army. The metaphor, “even for an eggshell” (4.4.56) describes the worthlessness of the land Fortinbras’ army is fighting over. An eggshell is so simple and has too little value or meaning to fight over.
Yet, unlike Hamlet, these men take action. Another metaphor is “a mother stained” (4.4.60) which refers back to Hamlet’s disgust with his mother’s marriage to his uncle.
Both of these metaphors help the reader understand Hamlet’s inner feelings.In addition, Shakespeare utilizes alliterations to put an emphasis on the tone of the soliloquy. Shakespeare uses alliterations such as “makes mouths” (4.4.53) and “death, and danger dare” (4.4.55).
These alliterations help show Hamlet’s frustration that these men dare and fight to their deaths but he has not.Furthermore, Shakespeare uses similes to connect Hamlet’s feelings to images. When Hamlet says, “gross as Earth exhort me:” (4.4.49), he conveys that it should be as distinct as Earth that Hamlet should take revenge. Later, when Hamlet discusses Fortinbras’ men, he says they “go to their graves like beds” (4.
4.65). This is incorporated to show the bravery of the soldiers’ actions. For these soldiers, going to these graves is normal.
These men are welcoming battle and death even for something not worth it. The land Fortinbras’ army is fighting for is not even big enough for all the men. Lastly, Hamlet ends the soliloquy by saying: “My thoughts be bloody or nothing worth!” (4.4.69). This is a strong image that foreshadows the ending of the play as blood relates to fighting, revenge, and death, which consumes all of act 5 scene 2.
How is the passage significant within the context of the play?This passage is significant as it shows Fortinbras’ army and Hamlet’s inability to act. In this passage, Hamlet finally decides that he needs to take action, rather than continue contemplating the proper way to avenge his father’s death. Taking revenge is hard, but this passage is a turning point for Hamlet as he acknowledges that thinking is not as productive as action. Furthermore, the actions of Fortinbras’ army fighting for a worthless cause reminds Hamlet of Hecuba and the player being emotional for someone he does not know.
Hamlet has justified feelings but has not been able to act. In previous acts, Hamlet has considered killing Claudius but has stopped himself. The potential ramifications of the death, for instance, accidentally sending Claudius to heaven while he is praying, have hindered Hamlet from acting. Hamlet ends this passage with “bloody” (4.4.69) thoughts, showing that he is bloodthirsty as he has never been before.