Hamlet's monologues

Hamlet's monologues as stages of the drama structure

Since there is no narrative authority in drama, monologues provide an opportunity to portray the inner life of characters. Following the ancient model, monologues embody indispensable components of the drama plot. They are particularly important in William Shakespeare’s "Hamlet" because the mostly false play of the protagonists at court almost never allows a glimpse of the characters' true world of thought.

Claudius and Ophelia are also given the opportunity to communicate to the audience in soliloquies, but none of their monologues have a comparable length and intensity to those of Hamlet. Thus, it is not surprising that the most famous quotes are almost all from Hamlet's monologues.

Hamlet's soliloquies highlight his isolation at court. With the exception of Horatio, Hamlet confides in no one else: his mother does not seem to understand him, his stepfather wants him murdered, and his college friends betray him.

None of the first four acts is without a monologue by Hamlet. Hamlet's seven important monologues inform the audience about his authentic feelings and his plans. Each of them thus reflects a separate stage of the drama plot.

In his first two monologues in Act I, it becomes clear that Hamlet cannot accept his mother's marriage to Claudius and will engage in the Ghost's demand for revenge. The plot climax in the second act is marked by a soliloquy in which he recognizes his own hesitation and moves to renewed vigor and a concrete plan to convict Claudius as the murderer.

In the third act, two significant monologues form the undisputed climax of the drama. While Hamlet delivers his most famous soliloquy on the meaning of life at the beginning of the act, he wrestles with the much more concrete question of whether to murder Claudius in prayer at the end of the act. In Act 4, during the plot drop, Hamlet, in a soliloquy, merely confirms what the audience was already convinced of in Act 3: That he is now ready to put his revenge into action.

After the fourth act, the catastrophe has become inevitable; no character, not even Hamlet, has to wrestle with a decision anymore. Everything is now heading towards the violent confrontation between Laertes and Hamlet and Hamlet and Claudius.

Hamlet's inner conflict is reflected especially in his monologues. At the beginning, Hamlet is driven by a downright disgust for the world, which quickly escalates into self-hatred. Eventually he negotiates universal human issues, only to be plunged back into deep self-doubt at the end of the drama. In the end, only the fulfillment of the revenge mission seems to be able to free him from his suffering.

Hamlet's monologues in the exposition (Act 1)

Monologue during the wedding celebration of Gertrude and Claudius (Act 1/Scene 2)

Hamlet's first soliloquy is the first opportunity for the audience to get a full picture in terms of the tensions dominant in the drama. In an emotionally charged speech full of interjections, exclamations, and apostrophes, Hamlet expresses how much his mother Gertrude's marriage to his uncle Claudius weighs on him. The events at court cause him to feel disgusted with the world: "How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, Seem to me all the uses of this world! Fie on't! ah fie!" (1.2.136-138).'

Hamlet is disgusted by the fact that his mother Gertrude married Claudius so soon after his father's death: ''within a month: ...

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