During the closing Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act 2 Scene 2, Shakespeare explores already mentioned themes in the play, such as revenge and death. As well as developing Hamlet’s character, done by contrasting throughout the speech, both Hamlet’s passion and desire for revenge and Hamlet’s fear and doubt toward his father’s ghost. This speech is first moment when Hamlet finally decides to take some action and start plotting the revenge in the name of his father. It reveals to the audience Hamlet’s conflicts, fears and most inner thoughts.

Hamlet’s soliloquy takes place right after hearing the player’s speech. He starts by questioning the player’s skill to show such strong emotions for “Hecuba”, since he has never really been there, experienced it. He ponders what the player would do if he “had the motive and the cue for passion that I (Hamlet) have”. (554) Hamlet thinks that the player would “drown the stage with tears” (555), impact “the general ear” (558). Moreover, on another level, Hamlet might using a theatre feature called, metatheater which is to have a “play within a play”. When he asks the player to perform “The murder of Gonzago” he is forcing it to happen. When he makes the comparison between him and the emotive player, there is a slight hint that Hamlet might “know” he is in a play. Even though, he contrasts on their ways of expressing their feelings towards something sad, Hecuba and his father’s murder, the differences between them can be seen from an acting standpoint. Shakespeare is making Hamlet think on this, which is a rather philosophical question, at the same time as developing a real plot line and character.


Hamlet in comparison feels that he is a “dull and muddy-mettled rascal” (561) who cannot do anything to avenge his father’s murder. This expression means he has weak spirit, it is an accurate description and contrast, to the passionate spirit of the player. He desires to have the power to act and make justice. However all he can do is to “mope”. (562) He is very frustrated with himself, for being fearful, at which point he questions himself if he’s a “coward” (565), a recurring question throughout the play, and hence not having the courage or spirit to act because of fear. Thus he calls himself “a rogue” (545), “a peasant slave” (544). This questioning of Hamlet’s strength by himself occurs on more than one occasion, “as I to Hercules”(ACT 1, Scene 2). He does not think he is capable of avenging his father’s murder alone, he is to weak emotionally and afraid of what might happen to him, therefore his idea of acting mad and not taking the fault of his actions.

Moreover, further into the speech Hamlet questions whether the ghost is really his father. Hamlet even curses this ghost, wondering it may be “a devil” who “hath power T’ assume a pleasing shape” (594-595), and “abuses me and damn me”. (598) Hamlet is dubious about the story told by the ghost. However, his desire to avenge his father and repulsion of his uncle makes him ignore this fact and says, “i’ll catch the conscience of the king” (600). Still, this is not the revenge any man would want; he is a rather logical, thoughtful and calm man. He wants to make sure the ghost is not tricking him and could therefore kill his uncle unfairly. This again proves the point that Hamlet is indeed, not mad at all up to this point, he is carefully devising a plan which takes into account all the fears he has.

Another recurring idea in the play is the hatred towards his uncle, King Claudius. Hamlet calls him a “bloody, bawdy villain!” (574) for all the betrayals he has done to the his own family. He killed his father “remorseless(ly)” (574), “treacherous(ly)” (574) put on an unrighteous crown; “lecherous(ly)” seduced the queen, his mother and “kindless(ly)” (574) destroyed his own family. Hamlet impatiently waits for his own revenge; he realizes that he needs to get his “brain” (583) working on a plan. Interestingly, even though many characters in the play suspect Hamlets is going mad, this shows that at this very moment he was just acting. He is planning to have the players “play something like the murder of my father before mine uncle” that he can “observe his looks” to judge whether he is guilty or not. It is clear that while Hamlet is weak and perhaps a coward, he does ignores every single consequence he might encounter and continues on with the plan.

In conclusion, this passage makes use of literary devices, such as metatheater, recurrent ideas, such as the themes of death and revenge, and certain diction to further develop the character of Hamlet, which is at this point still not mad, but rather a schemer, who is taking a lot of precautions before taking a proper revenge in his father’s name. We see a fearful Hamlet, which takes the player’s acting so seriously it makes him ignore his worries and devise a plan against his uncle, a start to his ultimate revenge.

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Kylie Garcia

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