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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: June ::
Re: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0550.  Tuesday, 21 June 1994.
 
(1)     From:   John Boni <
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        Date:   Monday, 20 Jun 1994 12:09:17 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0547 Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
 
(2)     From:   William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
        Date:   Monday, 20 Jun 1994 19:16:10 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0547  Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
 
(3)     From:   Skip Shand <
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        Date:   Monday, 20 Jun 1994 14:05 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0547  Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
 
(4)     From:   Robert O'Connor <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 21 Jun 1994 10:42:03 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0547  Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Boni <
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Date:           Monday, 20 Jun 1994 12:09:17 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 5.0547 Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0547 Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
 
In response to Charles Edelman's query regarding Hamlet's "But break my
heart..." ending to the first soliloquy:
 
I wonder if it is not a consequence of Hamlet's seeing the entrance of Horatio,
Barnardo, and Marcellus.  In his current state he trusts no one.  (Note how
Hamlet seems happy to welcome anyone not from Elsinore--Horatio, R & G, the
Players--since to be from Elsinore-Denmark is to be corrupted.)  Since he can
trust no one, he must hold his tongue until an auditor can be proven to be
trustworthy. ] I realize that this interpretation may appear to violate the
convention of the soliloquy, but that convention is shunted aside when hearers
approach.
 
I will be interested in others' reaction to this viewpoint.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
Date:           Monday, 20 Jun 1994 19:16:10 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0547  Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0547  Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
 
Charles Edelman asks an interesting question: why DOES Hamlet have to hold his
tongue? First of all, I assume that he's using a metaphor. He's not walking
around the court with his tongue firmly clutched by his hand.
 
What requires Hamlet, who apparently likes to talk, to be silent about his
mother's hasty marriage? Should we compare the King to Henry VIII, and
understand that it is extremely dangerous to criticize a king openly? Is the
implication that King Claudius is a tyrant?
 
And why are Gertrude's tears "unrighteous?" In what sense are they
"unrighteous"?
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
P.S.  Certainly Hamlet's suit of black is a SILENT protest, especially when mom
asks him to cast his nighted color off.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Skip Shand <
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Date:           Monday, 20 Jun 1994 14:05 EDT
Subject: 5.0547  Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0547  Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
 
One very usual answer to Hamlet's abrupt silence comes via the staging: Horatio
and the guards enter, and Hamlet has to clam up. Soliloquy interruptus. It
doesn't address your search for a more psychologised motive, but it has the
elegance of immediacy and playability.
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert O'Connor <
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Date:           Tuesday, 21 Jun 1994 10:42:03 +1000
Subject: 5.0547  Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0547  Q: Hamlet's First Soliloquy
 
Dear All,
 
Charles Edelman (Hi, Charles!) asked about sent a query about the Danish
prince:
 
>Hamlet's first soliloquy is so well known that one tends to gloss over lines
>that are possibly not as explicit as might be assumed.  I would appreciate
>feedback from all and sundry as to exactly WHY Hamlet must 'hold his tongue?'
>Respect for Gertrude's feelings?  Fear of offending the court? etc. etc.
 
I agree that these may be factors, Charles - but have you considered it in the
light of what he says later:
 
 . . . . .This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must like a whore unpack my heart with words
And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
A scullion!
 
It is evident, I think, that one of the reasons why Hamlet must 'hold his
tongue' is that to rant and rave does not constitute 'manly' action, but
womanish inaction.  The same idea is explored and rejected by Macduff.
 
Robert O'Connor
Australian National University
 

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