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BIBLIOGRAPHY AND HISTORY
Bloom, Harold. Hamlet: Poem Unlimited: Riverhead Books, 2003
Champion, Larry S. "'By Indirections Find Directions Out': The Soliloquies in Hamlet." Journal of General Education, 27 (1976), pp. 265-80
Clemen, W. Shakespeares Soliloquies. Folcroft Library Editions, 1977
Eissler, K. Discourse on Hamlet and HAMLET. International Universities Press, 1971
McDonnell, William E. "The Shakespearean Soliloquy: A Problem of Focus." Text and Performance Quarterly, 10:3 (1990 July), pp. 227-34.
Prosser, E. Hamlet and Revenge Stanford University Press, 1971.
Skiffington, L. The History of the English Soliloquy: Aeschylus to Shakespeare: Rowman and Littlefield, 1985.
HISTORICAL NOTES: GENERAL SOLILOQUY FRAME OF REFERENCE:
THE SOLILOQUIES IN A SHAKESPEARE PLAY CAN BE ANALYZED ACCORDING TO THE FOLLOWING SCHEME: place the soliloquy somewhere between the alternatives and justify...
Using the chart, classify the soliloquies according to the following. Which are...
A-metaphysical--most commonly associated with Hamlet
B-examples of intense verbal fury--Lear in the storm
C-obsessive-Iago psychopathic rage at Othello
D-delay orientated--again sometimes associated with Hamlet [Coleridge's thesis of excessive reflection.] ?
Medieval--part of the dramatization of consciousness as in Everyman, especially the turning point passage in which he finally admits culpability
Renaissance--(what Shakespeare inherited): Traditional Exposition in terms of:
A-PLOT--how to dramatize intrigue as in Macbeth: Our fears in Banquo stick deep", that is, what action follows this passage?
B-ROLE OF ?--the opening of Richard III-- Now is the winter...
Note that although both passage advance the plots: to kill Banquo and Clarence et.al., they nonetheless show Shakespeare's ability to blend the dramatic and psychological, as will be discussed below
Psychological development--more unique to Shakespeare:
PERSONALITY IDENTIFICATION--Iago and Edmund, but note as explicated in the Othello pages of this site, that Iago's pose special difficulties. "I am not who I am," he warns. The Othello passages offer differing interpretations of the "motiveless malignancy" issue posed by Coleridge. Edmund - Iago-like in some respects can simultaneously invoke Medieval metaphysics and curse it depending on the circumstances as does Iago on "reputation."
REFLECTIVE--i.e.: perturbation of the mind: Hamlet: Now Might I..., and Macbeth: Two truths... Hamlet, in a scene so horrible, according to Dr. Johnson, that it should barely be dramatized wishes Claudius truly damned [or is it that he would now rather "...speak daggers but use none,]" to Gertrude? Macbeth, in the theme passage of the play, reveals the depth but narrow focus of his imagination. He sees Duncan alive and dead simultaneously, so "Nothing is but what is not.".
THE DIDACTIC SOLILOQUY--as in Everyman who goes to the grave knowing that Good Deeds alone save [Luther notwithstanding], or Macbeth's warning that the very angels will plead "trumpet tongued against..." the death of Duncan.
Dynamics of the Soliloquy:
1. usually the dramatization of consciousness--a character on the stage reveals ? Shakespeare made the soliloquy more of a psychological device than an expository one.
2. A soliloquy may be addressed to:
a-the audience--the traditional textbook read--The Fool in Lear at the end of Act I
b-the self--an easy way to read Hamlet if the introspective, philosophical Prince of Olivier is studied
c-a thing (dagger)--Macbeth's "heat oppressed" brain may indeed be diseased, although the passage could be didactic too in that this is the last warning he allows himself before the murder.
d-nature--obviously the best example is Lear's Act III storm scenes, during which the microcosm reflects the macrocosm: the "tempest" in his mind.
e-another character--or perhaps an aside, as the Iago - Roderigo conversations are little more than sounding boards for Iago, since Roderigo knows little of Iago's intent, but the best example follows the murder of Duncan" "Macbeth doth murder sleep..."Although seemingly a conversation, he is so introspectively horrified that her presence is not noticed. Try reading the lines omitting her 'responses.'
Some critical perspectives:
McDonnell quoting Clemen:
"Today we tend to associate the soliloquy primarily with mediation and the expression of emotion, with introspection, and with what Matthew Arnold called the dialogue of the mind with itself Yet, in pre-Shakespearean drama it was only occasionally used for purposes which had to do with reflection or inner conflict: more often if fulfilled the function of the chorus...of clarification of the plot
To what extent does the soliloquy now also give expression to a false or distorted self-image, to an element of self-deception, or even a deliberate attempt to deceive others?
Observation of McDonnell:
Should the soliloquies be addressed to the audience or remain introspective?
There are more than 300 soliloquies total in all 37 plays, and 61 cluster in the tragedies ranging from a half a line to 581/2 lines (Hamlet: Oh what a rogue...)
Shakespeares soliloquies became an organic part of his dramatic compositions, and this process began early on...the soliloquy expresses something which has all the appearance of inevitability and credibility. Shakespeare lets his soliloquies confirms what the audience and reader already know, fulfilling at once the expectations of the audience and the demands of dramatic art.
Do Shakepeare's characters think dialectically [Click here for Plato], treating first concepts as assumptions. Do they pose a thesis, antithesis, synthesis which, Hegel like, continuously evolves to...?
If Harold Bloom is correct in Hamlet: Poem Unlimited, his consciousness is so vast that it even races ahead of his creator: "It is Hamlet's Triumph over Shakespeare...that the prince implicitly persuades us he knows more than his creator does...Hamlet longs for a mighty opposite, and discovers he has to be his own." (pp. 112/136)