Hamlet's First Soliloquy

Act 1.2.129-159 , by Maira Rashid

Frailty, thy name is woman (I.II.146)

This line in the passage is a saying that is taken to mean that women are weaker than men. Hamlet is viewed as a misogynist as he speaks to himself about his mother's disgusting action of marrying Claudius, the brother of her deceased husband. The term "Frailty", which is defined as the weakness of a character that causes them to do things that are morally wrong, is used in this soliloquy to refer to Gertrude and also women in general about how they come across as weak beings that give in to things more easily than men do.

'Tis an unweeded garden / That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature / Possess it merely. That it should come to this! (I.II.135-137)

As these few lines in the passage are being said by Hamlet, he gives away the impression that he is in a state of misery, feeling that there is absolutely nothing in life worth the pain and hardship that goes into living life. Hamlet goes on to describe Denmark in a metaphoric way, with Denmark being the garden and Claudius being the weed. The way in which this is viewed, is that the garden is coming upon unwanted weeds that are growing wildly in the land because no one fit enough for a saviour is taking action to care for it, as Hamlet's father, King Hamlet, once did.

Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d / His canon 'gainst self-slaughter. (I.II.131-132)

Living life in a throbbing world is undoubtedly prone to suicidal thoughts. Hamlet is one who thinks of this. The world viewed from his eyes, as a result of witnessing his mother marrying Claudius about two months after her husband's death, gives an insight to the corruption that Hamlet thinks is taking place in people's minds. He mentions God and how He had made a religious law against suicide; the sixth commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill' (Exodus 20:13) which was the only reason that Hamlet had to let the suicidal thoughts escape his mind. The effect of Gertrude's remarriage on Hamlet is bigger than is expected as we see how he considers suicide because of it.

So excellent a king, that was to this / Hyperion to a satyr, so loving to my mother (I.II.139 – 140)

In the eyes of Hamlet, Claudius is nothing compared to his father. In fact, Hamlet says that, comparing Old Hamlet to Claudius is like a Hyperion, the glorious sun-god of classical mythology, being compared to a lecherous satyr, a lustful mythological creature that is half-man and half-goat. Hamlet communicates his love and respect for his late father and takes a moment to appreciate all that he had done as his position as King of Denmark. Also, Hamlet mentions how loving his father once was to his wife, Gertrude, and that he even kept the wind from blowing too roughly on her face, saying "That he might not beteem the winds of heaven / Visit her face too roughly." (I.II.141-142).

Like Niobe, all tears — why, she— / O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason / Would have mourn’d longer (I.II.149-151)

In these lines, Niobe is contrasted with Gertrude because she is known to be symbolic of a mother's grief, and Hamlet's mother is nowhere near similar to her. Niobe, in classical mythology, wept for the deaths of all her children until she was turned into a stone fountain. But in the case of Gertrude, in less than two months, not even before her tears had dried on her cheeks from the funeral of her husband, she decided to remarry. Hamlet says that even a beast would have mourned their significant other longer than his mother did.

O that this too too sullied flesh would melt, / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew, (I.II.129-130)

I chose a picture of dew because it is something that Hamlet mentions that he wishes his body would dissolve into, something uncontaminated and fresh. Hamlet feels as if his flesh is contaminated or impure as it has been soiled by his mother's incestuous marriage to Claudius. As a result of his father's death, Hamlet notices that there is absolutely no reason to live anymore, having the eagerness to melt away, thaw and dissolve into a dew. The only reason that stops Hamlet from having these thoughts are because of the fact that killing oneself is considered a sin in the eyes of the Almighty. He says “His canon 'gainst self-slaughter. O God! God! / How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable” (I.II.132-134). Hamlet views his life as worthless and is having trouble on finding a reason on why he should stay breathing.