Hamlet’s Second Soliloquy
Coming right away after the meeting with the Ghost of Hamlet’s dad, Shakespeare uses his second soliloquy to present Hamlet’s initial reactions to his brand-new function of revenger. Shakespeare is not hesitant in foreboding the spiritual and esoteric implications of this role, something extensively checked out in Elizabethan revenge tragedy, doing so in the very first lines as Hamlet makes an invocation to ‘all you host of paradise’ and ‘earth’.
Hamlet is revealed to impulsively rationalize the ethical concerns behind his task as he views it as a magnificent regulation of justice, his fatalistic view reiterated at the end of scene 5 with the rhyming couplet ‘O cursed spite,/ That ever I was born to set it right’. These concepts are paralleled in Vindice’s opening soliloquy in The Revenger’s Disaster, as he calls upon a personified ‘Vengeance, thou murder’s quit-rent’ and asks ‘Faith’ to ‘give Vengeance her due’.
This concept of functioning as God’s scourging agent recognizes the hubristic nature of the 2 character’s propositions, Shakespeare likewise introducing concepts of ‘heaven’, ‘hell’ and ‘earth’ that repeat in the play’s cosmic viewpoint on vengeance. Nevertheless, while this screen of hamartia is particularly strong in Vindice, who therefore appears damned from the very first scene, Shakespeare complexly presents Hamlet’s underlying morals concerning vengeance as he asks whether he ‘will pair hell’ with ‘paradise’ and ‘earth’.
While this could be viewed as a reiteration of the possibility that the ghost was a hellish figure, or that even hell can not understand Claudius’ criminal offense, it can also be viewed as an impulsive acknowledgment of his intellectual action to his task, and the ethical concern that comes with it. Using ‘And’ along with the juxtaposition beside the exclamation of ‘O fie!’ and the caesura in ‘Hold, hold, my heart’ depict the declaration as an after-thought that is rapidly rejected by Hamlet, who then goes onto vow his commitment to the Ghost.
Hamlet’s following remarks make up a development in the play’s action, as he seems to become enamored with the Ghost’s command, displayed in his repeating of ‘remember’ and ‘all’ as he expresses his intention to ‘clean away’ all memories except that of the Ghost. The majority of substantially however, is some outright contrasts shown here with Hamlet earlier on and with his first soliloquy. He states all the ‘books’, ‘types’ and ‘pressures’ of his youth and education as ‘baser matter’ regardless of having wanted to return to study at Wittenberg in advance.
Hamlet makes it clear that’ [the Ghosts] commandment all alone will live within the book and volume of [his] brain’ (the alliteration of ‘book’ and ‘brain’ including a noticable decision to his tone), the spiritual allusions presenting a complete displacement from the humanistic Christian worths expressed in his comments on ‘the Everlasting’ fixing his ‘canon ‘gainst self-slaughter’ in his very first soliloquy, where he also condemns his flesh as ‘too too solid’, the very same ‘sinews’ that he now hires to ‘bear [him] stiffly up’.
One of the Ghosts most poignant impacts on Hamlet is mentioned by L. C. Knights in Hamlet and Death, where he describes that “Hamlet’s exclusive concentration upon things rank and gross and his following recoil from life as a whole identify his mindset to death, which likewise is purely one of negation”.
While Hamlet states the Ghost’s rule will reside in his brain ‘unmixed with baser matter’, he instantly changes to a vicious verbal attack on Gertrude as a ‘most pernicious lady!’ and Claudius as a ‘bad guy, villain, smiling, damned bad guy!, this last statement being the third consecutive line to be end-stopped with an exclamation mark, exemplifying this rapid change into relentless hatred.
The image of Claudius as a ‘smiling’ bad guy, and Hamlet’s point that ‘one may smile, and smile, and be a bad guy’, highlights the repeating concept of look against reality, marking similarities with the corrupt characters in The Revenger’s Disaster whose ‘mask’ can only be perceived by ‘that everlasting eye that translucents flesh and all’.
These Machiavellian politics of phenomenon and personality highlighted by Hamlet reveal Shakespeare’s review of the Elizabethan upper class, who at the time used elegant clothing by law to safeguard the social order and their apparent elitism; one that does not match the reality of their sinful personalities, polluted by computing and narcissistic ambition. The rather distinctive changes of Hamlet’s emotions and intents are epitomized at the end of his 2nd soliloquy.
After knocking and eliminating the ‘unimportant fond records’ of education from his memory, Hamlet can’t help however return quite comically to his preoccupation as a scholar, as he takes down (whether actually or psychologically) the Ghost’s final words as a sort of mnemonic to assist him in his job. The use of iambic pentameter in these words (‘Goodbye, adios, remember me’)– paired with making use of repetition and consonance– provide an ambiguous tone that might be ominous as much as it is affectionate.
The humour is certainly dark though, as there is something foreboding about the image of Hamlet composing these words down on a tablet (the mention of ‘tables’ comes two times in this soliloquy), the story of Exodus mentioning that God too wrote the Ten Commandments down on 2 stone tablets. The significance of this image suggests Hamlet’s fate is now locked, the last declarative ‘I have sworn ‘t’ including a finality to the manifestations of a terrible outcome.