Reading Response to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Published: 2021-07-12 01:45:05
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Category: Hamlet

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William Shakespeare’s magnum opus Hamlet, set in Denmark, is an Elizabethan revenge tragedy that has endured through the centuries. One of Shakespeare’s prominent dramatic features is that of the soliloquy, wherein characters reveal their thoughts and motivations directly to the audience.
In one of the many soliloquies in which Prince Hamlet, the eponymous protagonist famously contemplates on his existence, crying in blank verse and written in iambic pentameter, “To be or not to be: that is the question” (Shakespeare 3.1.55), and likens his mental anguish and deliberations to that of “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Shakespeare 3.1.57). In this scene the audience understands and empathises with Hamlet’s angst with regards to his contemplation of suicide over seeking revenge on his father’s killer, the incumbent ruler and also his uncle Claudius. The audience also understands the gravity of his suicidal thoughts through the kinaesthetic imagery and combative diction used in “slings and arrows” (Shakespeare 3.1.57).
Tangentially, in our modern times, denizens of social media express their seemingly contemplative ruminations about their however comparatively frivolous life struggles in a syntax that Shakespearean readers would find amusing in its misappropriation. For example, ‘to do my homework or not to do my homework that is the question’ is an example of a modern expression which might aptly characterize the growing teenage pains of school homework. Yet, readers of the dramatic work Hamlet will find themselves gutted with these insignificant banal thoughts in comparison to Prince Hamlet’s weightier considerations suicide and regicide reflected in his soliloquy.
Through this scene and numerous other soliloquy, asides and dramatic dialogue, the dramatist conveys the thoughts, feelings of its characters, conveys the heavy themes of regicide and justice, as well as set up the plot as a revenge tragedy.

Puchner, Martin, ed. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 3rd ed. Vol. C. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2012. Print.

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