How does Shakespeare portray changes in Hamlets character through soliloquy one and four

I am going to be looking at the first and fourth soliloquy in the play “Hamlet” to discover how Shakespeare portrays changes in Hamlet’ character through soliloquy’s one and four. “Hamlet” was written by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1601 and is a story based on tragedy. Hamlet is the prince of Demark who has returned from college overseas to mourn his father’s death. When Hamlet returns he finds his mother already re-married to his father’s brother who will become the next king of Denmark.

Denmark is on a high risk of invasion from Norwegian troops under the leadership of a young, inspirational prince named Fortinbras.

After the untimely death of his father, Hamlet’ emotions begin to come clear. Contempt and anger become a daily emotion after his mother’s re-marriage and suicide is a considered option. If not for religion, Hamlet would most likely commit suicide, but this is against his religious beliefs and morals. Hamlet feels self pity which is easily seen in the first line of the first soliloquy.

We can see the repetition of the word “too” is used for the emphasis on the “thick skin”. Shakespeare uses the word “melt”.

I think this for two reasons; one being that melting is slow but also to emphasise on the suffering and emotion it causes Hamlet as he can’t take any more rumours, rumours surrounding the suspicion of Gertrude’ sudden marriage to old king Hamlets brother. When Hamlet talks about the melting of thick skin, I believe that he is referring to his family’ reputation.

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Hamlet’s self pity is seen best here, “and resolve itself into a dew! “. Hamlet wants everything to be over and to sort itself out. Hamlet is a religious person and it’s easy to see that Hamlet wishes he could kill himself.

Hamlet’s suicidal thoughts are unable to be complete due to his beliefs. Here Hamlet blames”God” for not allowing him to die. I think this because Hamlet blames the “Everlasting” for not banishing a sin that which disallows him to commit suicide. This is best seen when he says “not fix’d his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter”. After his father’s death the world through his eyes is bland and boring. This shows us that Hamlet was obviously an admirer of his father and also shows what kind of character his father was, someone who could change someone’s life, make it more interesting.

I think this because of the following quotation, “How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, Seem to me all the uses of this world! “. In my opinion this shows the beginning of Hamlets downward spiral of depression that is to come. Hamlet is metaphorically unaware of what is happening around him. His life is inconsistent and is easily seen to be getting too much for him. This is shown in the following quotation, “Fie on’t ah fie! ’tis an un weeded garden”. This is a great description as it gives us an image in our mind of what things are like for Hamlet.

I believe Shakespeare uses “un weeded garden” to show us that the event in the garden which killed his father is the cause of all his problems. Hamlet’s disappointment in his mother shows through clearly in this soliloquy. A good example of this is, “That it should come to this”. This shows us that Hamlet obviously didn’t want it to happen and that the way it happened. Further proof of his disappointment is shown in the following eleven lines, which heavily shows his bitter disappointment and the disgrace his mother has caused.

Hamlet tells us that his father was dead for “two months” but then later tells us that he was dead for less than two months before Gertrude re-marries. This is used to emphasise the fact that Gertrude didn’t wait long before re-marrying. Hamlet once again suggests that King Hamlet was a great man by saying, “So excellent a king; that was, to this. ” Hamlet’s opinion of his father is very high, this is also shown in the following quotation, “Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother”. This tells us that king Hamlet was colossus to his friends and to his kingdom, someone with exceptional importance.

Hamlet tells the audience that his father’s opinion of Gertrude was and most likely still is very high. A great example of this is, “he might not beteem the winds of heaven visit her face to roughly”. This is a great way of showing what his mother meant to his father. Hamlet tells us that his father always “loving” to his mother. Hamlet’s opinion of his father not only gives us a good impression of him but a bad one of his mother. Shakespeare does this very cleverly, as it makes us feel what Hamlet feels; that his mother is a traitor and a disgrace to the Kingdom.

Hamlet continues to flout his mother by telling the audience that “she would hang on him”. This gives us the impression that Hamlet believes that she use his father for respect and significance inside the country, which could also be the reason for her marrying Claudius so quickly. He also tells us that he doesn’t want to remember his mother and fathers time together, it can be seen in the following quote, “Must I remember? “. This is a very large statement made by Hamlet which shows massive loss of confidence in his mother and implies that he wants nothing to do with her anymore.

Hamlet continues his angry outburst with further insult to his mother. It is easily seen when Hamlet uses “Frailty, thy name is woman”. This is not only an insult to his mother but to Ophelia his girl friend and to all women in general. He describes them as frail which is a major insult and tells us that he has lost all confidence in women. This shows a big turning point in Hamlet’ character as he’s been so loving to Ophelia but now insults her. Hamlet’s disbelief of the fact that her mother re-married so quickly is show in the following quotation, “A little month, or ‘ere those shoes were old”.

I think this shows that Hamlet still can’t believe it is because the fact has been said many times. Hamlet shows sympathy towards his father in this quotation “she followed my poor fathers body”. I think sympathy is shown for more than one reason; one because he has died, secondly because he has been betrayed by his brother and wife. I think this is motivation for Hamlet to avenge his father’s death. Shakespeare uses a comparison by comparing Gertrude and Niobe. He compares the tears that they shed to allow us to imagine her mourning.

But later Hamlet tells us that “a beast would have mourn’d longer” which implies that her tears were false. Hamlet’s disgust is further obvious when he repeats that his mother has married his uncle but insists that Claudius is no more like his father than he is to Hercules. This can be seen in the following quotation, “but no more like my father Than I to Hercules”. This shows us that Hamlet doesn’t think that Claudius is good enough to replace his father, and that he doesn’t deserve the opportunity to replace him. Hamlet describes Gertrude’s re-marrying as being so fast that the tears in her “galled” eyes had not had the chance to dry.

This can be observed in the following quote, “within a month: Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears Had left the flushing in her galled eyes, She married”. Hyperbole is used in this description to emphasis on how fast she re-married. Hamlet stresses that their relationship is moving along to fast, and is concerned that it will come to no good. This can be seen in the following quotation, “O, most wicked speed, to post With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! “. I think that Hamlet is disgraced by the fact that it is made so obvious and especially so soon after his father’s death.

I believe that Hamlet doesn’t want it to work out for them as he says, “But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue”. Hamlet can’t express his feelings as Claudius is the new king and it could danger him if he was to speak out. I think Hamlet wants the relationship to end for two reasons; one being that it would be less disrespectful to his father’ reputation and secondly so that he can talk out. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony here to help the audience realize Hamlet’ frustration as his mother is unaware of the fact that he is unhappy about the marriage. Hamlet’s first soliloquy is the one that sets the tone for all the others.

This is where we are first introduced to Hamlet’s emotions and feelings. This is where the downward spiral off Hamlet’s life begins where we can see a mixture of emotions consisting mostly of anger, depression and self doubt, leading to suicidal and miserable thoughts. Hamlets anger and contempt at those around him in soliloquy one combined with the secretive emotions raging to be unleashed only set the stage for what is to come. Between the first and last soliloquies’; king Hamlet reappears at the castle who is spotted by Horratio and Marcellus, two of Hamlet’s closest friends.

Horration and Marcellus tell Hamlet of what they have seen and he demands to keep castle watch with them. Polonius and Laerte’s strongly advise Ophelia not to get in to any relationship with prince Hamlet. Hamlet tells his friends on guard that Claudius’ revelry makes Denmark a laughing stock. This is the first time for him to share his opinion on Claudius with somebody else. The ghost appears, and Hamlet calls out to it. The ghost beckons Hamlet to follow it out into the night. His companions urge him not to follow, begging him to consider that the ghost might lead him toward harm.

Hamlet declares that he cares nothing for his life and follows the ghost into the darkness. The ghost, confirmed as the ghost of late Hamlet tells Hamlet all about how Claudius poisoned him and that Hamlet should avenge his death but not to harm Gertrude. In act II both Polonius and Gertrude have different theory’s to why he’s experiencing a sudden change in character, while Claudius sends two spy’s to spy on him. Hamlet decides to use a play which he has edited to remake his father’s death in an attempt to find out if Claudius really did kill king Hamlet and also to put on an act of insanity to fol those around him.

Claudius becomes suspicious of Hamlet and decides that Hamlet must be sent to England but is talked out of it by Gertrude. After the play occurs Claudius behaves in a manner that confirms Hamlets suspicion. Hamlet kills Polonius who is listening in on a conversation between Gertrude and Hamlet. While Hamlet scolds his mother the ghost of king Hamlet appears and tells him not to scold his mother, and that she should stop living with Claudius which she agrees to do. Gertrude speaks to Claudius who questions here on Polonius’ death but Gertrude lies for Hamlet by telling him that her son is mad.

Hamlet is thought to literally be insane after months of acting the role of a crazy person. Hamlet tells Claudius that Polonius’ body is being eaten by worms, and that the king could send a messenger to find Polonius in heaven or seek him in hell himself. Claudius demands that Hamlet goes to England. Hamlet accepts. Claudius states his hope that England will obey the sealed orders he has sent with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The orders call for Prince Hamlet to be put to death. Hamlet intercepts the letter and makes sure that the instructions are for Rozencrants and Guildenstern to be killed.

On a nearby plain in Denmark, young Prince Fortinbras marches at the head of his army, travelling through Denmark on the way to attack Poland. Fortinbras orders his captain to go and ask the King of Denmark for permission to travel through his lands. On his way, the captain encounters Hamlet, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern on their way to the ship bound for England. Laertes secretly travels back to Denmark after hearing of his sister’ and father’ deaths. Hamlet’s fourth and final soliloquy takes place in act four scene four where his self pitiful feelings are best seen.

This is best seen when Hamlet says “How all occasions do inform against me”. In this quotation we can easily see that Hamlet thinks that everyone and everything is against him which makes him even more determined to fulfil his father’s wishes. This is best seen in the second line, “And spur my dull revenge”. In this quotation we can see that Hamlet becomes jaded of seeking this revenge when he uses the word “dull” to describe it. Hamlet’s self confidence is seen to be low. It’s seen in the following quotations, “What is a man”, “Be but to sleep and feed? Here Hamlet asks the audience a question which is referring to himself. Hamlet implies that he is lazy and that he doesn’t work towards fighting for his father’s revenge.

Hamlet answers the question himself in this quotation “a beast”. Shakespeare uses comparison here to compare Hamlet to an animal. Shakespeare uses this technique to give Hamlet a feeling of despair that is obvious to the audience. Hamlet, uncertain of his purpose in life and why god made him the way he did. It can be seen in the following quote, “Looking before and after, gave us not That capability and god-like reason To fust in us unused”.

Hamlet tells the audience that he has metaphorically forgotten his plan of revenge due to thinking about it too much. This can be best seen when he says, “whether it be bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple of thinking too precisely on the event”. I think Shakespeare uses this to remind the audience of his crazy side and to emphasise on the importance of the task. Hamlet goes on to talk about his cowardliness in the next lines. He stresses that his plan is only quarter wisdom and three quarters coward, which shows that it was thought of during times of anger and disappointment.

He continues to say that he should have completed the revenge by now. This can be seen in this quotation, “Why yet I live to say ‘This things to do;'” This shows how weak Hamlets character has become, he can’t complete a task which he has all the reasons to do. Proof of this is, “Sith I have the cause and will and strength and means To do’t”. In my opinion the reason Hamlet has not completed the revenge is because he’s distracted by something. I believe that it is Fortinbras that distracts Hamlet from his revenge. A good example of this is, “Witness this army of such mass and charge Led by a delicate and tender prince”.

Hamlet’s admiration for Fortinbras is distracting him from his task. I think he’s jelous of Fortinbras’ leadership ability. I think this because he says, “Whos spirit with divine ambition”. Hamlet envy’s his ambition, it’s as if Hamlet compares himself to Fortinbras by comparing each other’s “ambition” and also their spirits. This shows how weak Hamlet’s character has become. Hamlet continues to brag Fortinbras by commenting on his motivational speeches. Hamlet says that Fortinbras can motivate his soldiers to want to fight for more “fortune”.

This is easily seen in the following quotation, “Exposing what is mortal and unsure To all that Fortune”. Further emphasis is put on Fortinbras’ speeches when hamlet tells us that Fortinbras can motivate his soldiers to fight for something so insignificant. He can motivate them to fight where “death and danger dare”‘s to fight for something that metaphorically has the value of an “egg-shell”. Hamlet once again compares himself to Fortinbras who will fight for “honour” even if it’s over nothing. A good example of this is, “But greatly to find quarrel in a straw”.

What Hamlet is trying to say is that Fortinbras is fighting for his uncles “honour” where he can’t fight for his father’ honour. This shows the disintegration of Hamlets confidence and what was a strong, focused mind at the beginning of the play is now a shy, distracted character. Hamlet then states the obvious and shows further depression and disappointment. This is shown best in, “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”. This is a very deep quotation from Hamlet as it shows that Hamlet can’t understand why he hasn’t completed the task.

This shows uncertainty in his character and also disappointment in himself. This shows us also that Hamlet believes he’s letting his father down. This is best seen in the following quotation, “to my shame”. This shows that Hamlet is ashamed of himself. Hamlet is intimidated by Fortinbras as he is willing to risk “the imminent death of twenty thousand men” “for a fantasy and trick of fame”. Hamlet is embarrassed because he isn’t risking anything for his father’s revenge. Hamlet tries to assure himself that Fortinbras’ bravery will not come to good, as he is misleading his soldiers.

Which can be seen in the next quotations, “Go to their graves like beds” and “Where? n the numbers cannot try the cause, Which is not tomb enough and continent To hide the slain”. Here Hamlet is convinced that “twenty thousand men” cannot be buried on the land which they are fighting for. Hamlet decides that from now on he must be concentrated on the task ahead. He decides to be more like young Fortinbras. This can be seen best when he says “O, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth! “. He decides to be more concentrated in his quest for revenge.

He makes sure from now on that he must be more aggressive. At the beginning of the play Hamlets emotions are mostly dominated by anger and contempt towards members of the family and also sadness due to the death of his father. Frustration and disappointment become key throughout the beginning of the play as these emotions are also used to form Hamlet’s character as we know it. Inconsistency in Hamlet’s day to day life causes more frustration and causes him to lose trust in others, mainly his mother who he is very disappointed in and blames for all the disheartening it has caused him.

Due to Gertrude’s sudden re-marriage Hamlet feels let down and becomes very angry because of the un loyalty she has shown to her late husband, Hamlet’s father. After his father’s death Hamlet looses one of his closest friends and most importantly a role model in his life and therefore has no one to look up to and to guide him. Shakespeare uses many techniques throughout the beginning of the play to form Hamlets character and to effect his emotions. For example he uses many comparisons in the first soliloquy between not only members of the family but also to describe his life.

For example, Shakespeare compares Hamlets life to an “Unweeded garden” which gives us the impression that it is out of control. He also compares Hamlet to “Hercules”, saying that they are nothing alike. This tells us that Hamlet is physically and possibly mentally weak. Shakespeare uses hyperbole when describing king Hamlet. This is best seen when Hamlet says, “Hyperion to a satyr”. The exaggeration is in “Hyperion” to emphasise on the importance of his father to Hamlet but can also give us the impression that Hamlet is dependent on his father.

Another technique that Shakespeare intentionally uses is using intense detail in a subtle way. For example Hamlet says that if it wasn’t for religion that he would commit suicide. This tells us two things about Hamlet; one being that Hamlet feels suicidal and secondly that he is a religious person. Between the first and fourth soliloquy a lot of things cause a change in Hamlets character; Due to Claudius’s poor leadership and man management of the country we see Hamlet open up for the first time in the play and share his opinion with another person.

Hamlet is shaken up by the fact that he’s seen his father’s ghost who informs him that Claudius killed him and asks him to avenge his death. His frustration increases for a number of reasons; One being that he knows that Claudius killed his father and secondly that his mother is sleeping with his father’s killer which cause much heartbreak and distress which can be seen in the following quotation, “But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue”.

After Hamlets decision to take up an act of insanity which I believe to be one of the biggest changes in his character throughout the play shows us that he is ready to take responsibility of avenging his father’s death which also shows maturity. Although showing maturity and responsibility it may possibly show the beginning of Hamlet actually becoming insane. I think that this is the beginning of Hamlets real insanity as he purposely kills Polonius, someone who had not affected his father and who was not in Hamlets original plan of revenge.

Another reason why I believe that Hamlet is on his way to becoming insane and a real killer is because he seems to be unaffected by the fact that he has caused the deaths of Rozencrants and Guildenstern. In soliloquy four we see almost a completely different character to what we saw in the first. I think this because his emotions have changed due to a change in desire. In soliloquy four we can see that Hamlet shows self pity which is a sign of a weak and unconfident person. It is easy to see that Hamlet is less depressed towards the end of the play as he does not feel suicidal.

A good example of Hamlet’s self pity is in the opening line of the soliloquy, “How all occasions do inform against me”. All though Hamlet has not completed his revenge he still remains determined but the revenge is not so enjoyable as he describes it as being “dull” which shows sadness. Hamlet believes that he has become lazy which is a definite change in character. At the beginning of the play Hamlet was a hard worker, studying in a university in France. Hamlet’s character has changed considerably when talking about bravery.

At the beginning of the play he was so determined and brave to considering that his father had died. But by the fourth soliloquy he has become in his own words a “coward”. I think Shakespeare used “coward” to describe Hamlet as that is the lowest a man can fall in terms of pride and being masculine which further shows how low on self esteem Hamlet is. Hamlet used to be such a focused and determined man, but by the end he is shy and distracted by the deaths of a number of people in the play. Another reason for Hamlets distraction is the young prince of Norway, Fortinbras.

Hamlet’s admiration of Fortinbras grows throughout the play to become what I believe to be jealousy. I think this because of the obsession with his motivational ability and his desire to fight for honour and respect when he himself cannot. I think Shakespeare uses Fortinbras to intimidate Hamlet to show the audience that Hamlet has no confidence. This is a very clever technique used by Shakespeare as it is done in a subtle way. Shakespeare uses more comparison in the fourth soliloquy to show how ashamed of himself and his family Hamlet is by comparing himself to Fortinbras.

Hamlet blames himself for the state his family is in. A good example of this is, “how stand I then”. Finally, Shakespeare uses hyperbole to emphasise on the pity that Hamlet shows towards the “twenty thousand” Norwegian soldiers that are about to lose their lives. On a hole Hamlet’s character has changed massively thorough the play. Shakespeare uses techniques such as Hyperbole to add to the drama and always writes in such detail throughout to supply a constant feed of information.

At the beginning of the play Hamlet was a; suicidal, confused, angry and sad character who could not cope with his father’s death and mothers re-marriage. Hamlets self pitiful emotions and inconsistent day to day life lead to an out poor of depression and anger towards Claudius and his mother which cause him to kill on many occasions. Hamlets frustration during the play lead to further determination to complete his father’s revenge and under constant pressure from Fortinbras to become a better leader was forced into being “bloody” minded. What was the young “prince of Denmark” became an insane monster riddled with jealousy.

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How does Shakespeare portray changes in Hamlets character through soliloquy one and four. (2017, Oct 08). Retrieved from

How does Shakespeare portray changes in Hamlets character through soliloquy one and four
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