After reading about the soliloquy in the module notes and discussing whether Hamlet’s actions can be considered as heroic, you are ready to analyze the “to be or not to be” soliloquy. For this assignment, you will be focusing on several performances of the soliloquy and how they bring out different aspects of Hamlet’s character. One of the beauties of Hamlet and one of the reasons why we’re reading it today is that it’s possible for the words to project slightly different meanings depending on how they are embodied by various actors.
There are several key questions to address when performing a close analysis of Hamlet’s soliloquy. These questions, listed below, should be used to structure your essay.
This short essay should be between 500-700 words and submitted in the Blackboard Dropbox. You should draw examples from both the play and at least two of the soliloquy performances listed below. You can use the performances to illustrate how the text, when spoken by an actor, still conveys a certain meaning. Your decisions about the meaning of the text should be drawn from both your reading of it and viewing of the performances.
- What is Hamlet asking himself?
- What relationship does this question hold to his ongoing decision as to whether or not he should act on the ghost’s information?
- Does Hamlet explicitly answer his question by the conclusion of the soliloquy? If so, what is this answer? Is there any answer given at all?
Hamlet has often been defined as an “anti-hero” because his words and actions harm those around him. He denounces Ophelia while he claims both to have loved her and never loved her at all (Act III, scene i and again in Act III, scene ii). He uses similar language in his angry confrontation with Queen Gertrude, causing her to call out to Polonius in fear for her life.
These painful confrontations seem separate from Hamlet’s indecision over whether to believe the ghost’s account of King Hamlet’s death at the hands of King Claudius. Hamlet’s conversation with his mother occurs after he seemingly has evidence of King Claudius’ guilt through his reaction to the play. Hamlet apparently has all the evidence that he needs to act at this point, yet he does not.
The question of whether Hamlet is a hero or anti-hero is up to you in this discussion forum.
Watch the short ten-minute video, Hamlet’s Journey (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., [Video, 06 min 47 sec] produced by the Folger Shakespeare Library. It opens with the scene where Hamlet encounters the ghost of old King Hamlet and continues with a discussion of the play, particularly, Hamlet himself.
As you are viewing the production, please pay particular attention to the section where Michele Osherow briefly summarizes the debate over whether Hamlet can be characterized as a heroic figure. Interestingly, she defines Hamlet as a hero because of his reluctance to kill.
In your initial discussion post of using 250+ words, identify at least five adjectives or phrases that you would use to describe a hero or heroic action. Based upon your own definition and examples (including quotations) from Act III, is Hamlet a hero in your eyes?