Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Soliloquies of Shakespeares Hamlet - To be or not to be Soliloquy :: GCSE English Literature Coursework

Hamlet --   â€Å"To be or not to be† Soliloquy      Ã‚   When the Bard of Avon created Hamlet, he simultaneously created the famous soliloquy ever uttered by English-speaking men. Thus it is that literary critics rank Hamlet’s fourth soliloquy as the most notable ever penned. Let’s examine in this essay how such a high ranking is deserved, and what the soliloquy means.    In his essay â€Å"An Explication of the Player’s Speech,† Harry Levin refers to the fourth soliloquy as the most famous of them all:    Dwelling on gross details and imperfections of the flesh (â€Å"Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight†), Hamlet will admonish his mother that sense-perception is dulled by sensual indulgence. Here insensibility is communicated by a rhetorical assault upon the senses: primarily â€Å"the very faculties of eyes and ears,† but incidentally touch and even taste. Leaving the senseless Priam to the insensate Pyrrhus, after another hiatus of half a line (37), the speech addresses violent objurgations to the bitch-goddess Fortune, about whom Hamlet   has lately cracked ribald jokes with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; whose buffets and rewards he prizes Horatio for suffering with equanimity; against whom he will, in the most famous of all soliloquies [my italics], be tempted to take arms. (36)    Marchette Chute in â€Å"The Story Told in Hamlet† describes just how close the hero is to suicide while reciting his most famous soliloquy:      Hamlet enters, desperate enough by this time to be thinking of suicide. It seems to him that it would be such a sure way of escape from torment, just to cease existing, and he gives the famous speech on suicide that has never been worn thin by repetition. â€Å"To be, or not to be . . .† It would be easy to stop living.    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 . . .    But Hamlet has never succeeded in deceiving himself, and he cannot do so now. . . . [He] will not . . . be able to kill himself. He has thought too much about it to be able to take any action. (39)    Considering the context of this most notable soliloquy, the speech appears to be a reaction from the determination which ended the â€Å"rogue and peasant slave† soliloquy. In fact, in the Quarto of 1603 the â€Å"To be† speech comes BEFORE the players’ scene and the nunnery scene – and is thus more logically positioned to show its emotional connection to the previous soliloquy (Nevo 46).

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