Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is a play that focuses on Hamlet’s own character development. Through his soliloquies the audience learns a lot about how he truly feels. This evidence leads to the essence of Hamlet’s lunacy. The function of these soliloquies is to track his maddening behavior as it evolves. Hamlet’s first major soliloquy occurs in Act I of the play. He contemplates killing himself as well as how he truly feels about his mother and father. About his mother he says, “frailty, thy name is woman” (I:ii:150). He insults his mother, but calls his father proactive, gentle, and an excellent king.
Pearce and Duffy write, “In the first soliloquy, Hamlet’s thinking tends towards an emotional rather than a rational extreme. . . At this point in the play, he is not able to think logically about his predicament and his conclusion is that he needs to remain silent” (“Hamlet:”). Hamlet does not want to speak out about how he really feels about the marriage between Gertrude and Claudius. Here, Hamlet acts as an intelligent man, he chooses not to speak publically about these feelings or else it would be treason. In Act II, Hamlet makes several illusions.
He also shares that he believes that only he has a real reason to be crying, instead of the actors. This motivates him to create a plan to avenge his father’s murder. Hamlet says, “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” (II:ii:633-634). During this soliloquy, Hamlet now acts very driven to fulfill his destiny. Pearce and Duffy write, “his outbursts become even more violent, yet one is also aware of a critical mind at work – posing questions about himself in relation to his predicament, as he compares himself to the Player” (“Hamlet:”).
During this scene Hamlet calls himself a coward, and a villain. He exclaims, “O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I” (II:ii:576). His outburst is now more extreme and since he has a plan to catch Claudius, his madness develops further. In Hamlet’s third soliloquy he contemplates suicide again. He says, “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” (III:i:68-71). He comes to this conclusion because he no longer wants to suffer, but the idea of suicide is very irrational.
Hirsh writes, “Hamlet’s omission of any reference to his personal situation is coupled with another kind of omission that makes the speech a tour de force of impersonality. In the entire thirty-four lines of the speech until he overtly addresses Ophelia, Hamlet never once uses a first-person-singular pronoun” (“The ‘‘To be, or not to be’’ Speech:”). During this speech Hamlet refers to himself in third person. For example, he says, “That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes, when he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin? ” (III:i:82-84).
One can assume that talking about yourself in the third person shows that you are truly turning mad. Hamlet contemplates about his own death as though he is not talking about himself. During Hamlet’s final soliloquy in Act IV, his attitude changes once again. He decides that all he cares about is killing Claudius, he does not care about the evidence. He explains, “How all occasions do inform against me and spur my dull revenge. . . 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” (IV:iv:34-35, 46-49).
Pearce and Duffy write, “his thought has become more linear and is less inclined to revolve on itself” (“Hamlet:”). Hamlet is now driven especially, to kill Claudius. After many sad attempts, he knows he must do this now or never. He also compares himself to a coward and a beast. He realizes he does not want to be a coward because he wants to live up to his expectation his father gave him. Hamlet finishes with, “O, from this time forth my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth! ” (IV:iv:68-69).
Hamlet’s four soliloquies tract his developing madness. In the first speech he has reason for the what he says about his mother’s affair and his father’s death. He is upset about his parents and wants a way out, but know not to speak openly about his feelings or else it would be treason. In his second soliloquy he believes he finally has a plan to see if Claudius is truly guilty. He does not want to kill the wrong guy, a smart choice, but during this speech Hamlet also acts as though he is the only one aloud to cry.
He insults the players for their lack of real emotion because Hamlet believes only he can feel pain. His third soliloquy begins with him questioning if he should even be alive. He looks at suicide as a way to escape from all of his problems and the way out of killing Claudius. At this point, Hamlet’s madness is surrounding him, his only way out of his self-hate is Ophelia. In his last soliloquy Hamlet wants his plan for revenge to just be done with.
He wants to kill Claudius just so he can stop stressing out about avenging his father’s death. Hamlet is now truly crazy because he looks at killing another man as a survival tool. He believes he should be, “exposing what is mortal and unsure to all that fortune, death, and danger dare, even for an eggshell” (IV:iv-54-56). Hirsh also writes, “Hamlet expressed disgust with life and a longing for death . . . In his disgust and longing for death were provoked by an intensely personal grievance—his mother’s marriage to his hated uncle.
By omitting all references to his personal grievances when in the presence of agents of his enemy, Hamlet tries to convey the impression that his disgust with life is merely the result of a generic melancholy temperament, an antic/antique disposition, not any personal grievance” (“The ‘‘To be, or not to be’’ Speech:”). Hamlet’s speeches show that he is truly mad because he loses his moral reasoning. Instead, he acts in the spur of the moment and does not think about his decisions. This later leads to his death because he becomes so head-strong and does not listen to others trying to protect him.