Now I am alone

Now I am alone / O, What a rogue and peasant slave am I!

Act 2.2.522

This soliloquy occurs after Hamlet persuades one of the actors to continue a speech he once heard from them. The speech is about the death of Priam, King of Troy, by Pyrrhus, and the of his queen, Hecuba. It appears right after Hamlet persuades the the group to present a play called “The Murderer of Gonzago” on the following night. It precedes Polonius’ and the King’s plot to find out wheter the source of Hamlet’s madness is unrequited love by observing him while they send Ophelia out to confront him. It can be seen as a nexus between  the emotional turmoil of Hamlet’s preceding soliloquy, after his encounter with the Ghost, and the measured intellectuality of the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, which comes soon after.

The soliloquy opens by showing Hamlet’s deeply troubled state of mind because he has neglected his duty. The soliloquy is important because the brutality of Pyrrhus reactivates all of Hamlet’s anguish and anger. The perception of the emotional energies released by the actor by an activated imagination instantly kindles Hamlet’s emotions into an outburst of passion culminating into ragin, hysterical hatred for the king: “Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, Kindless villain.”
It is ironic that he wishes that he had “fatted all the region kites with this slave’s offal” since  in the beginning he as called himself a “peasant slave!” And just after he has rhetorically questioned: “Who calls me villain?” he calls Claudius a “Bloody, Bawdy and kindless villain”. Again, he ironically calls out that “This is most brave” since he reproves himself for using words instead of actions. The double irony occurs when subsequently he cries “About, my brain” The double irony lies in the fact that he has just disapproved of intellectualising about his delay and then continues to intellectualise. This ironic stanza serves as a denoument of his emotional outburst that links his sudden intellectual attitude that gives him hope. More Irony is seen when he hypothesises that if the Actor had the “motive and cue for passion” that he himself has, then he would “drwon the stage with tears” since from the audiences point of view he achieves a dramatic intensity that matches that of the actor.

This is congruous with the fact that Hamlet imagines his role of revenger as a part that the actor might play. The revenger is a persona other than who Hamlet really is. Hamlet tries to emulate the actor’s emotion and seems to indicate that he will have to play his part better. But the brutality of the revenger, of Pyrrus, gives rise to problems. Göthe said that Hamlet was a week willed character. In this soliloquy, he himself calls himself a coward. The revenger’s character is thus not compatible with Hamlet’s own. The conflict is best seen in the his reflection that he uses words too much rather than actions. “What a brave an act is this” shows, that without understanding why, he finds it difficult to play the role of the player.

This brings rise to one of the major themes. The man of inaction conflicts with the man of action. Or seen in another light the man of passion vs. the man of intellect. This theme is mostly manifest in the way that Hamlet’s thoughts develop throughout the soliloquy. He has the “motive and cue for passion” and yet he can “say nothing” while the player would spring to action in an instant – all for nothing For Hecuba. What’s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba.” Laertes springs to action at the death of his father, but in spite of Hamlet’s passion positive action remains latent.  At first he blames himself for having done nothing; then he says what he should have done. He then blames himself for going on talking. And then he continues in a ratiocination. Second there is a theme of treachery and appearance vs. reality subtly embedded in the Player’s ostetensibly veritable emotions. “Is it not monstrous that this player here, But in fiction , in a dream of passion, could force his soul to his whole conceit that fromer her working all his visage wanned….” It is manifest yet again when he reasons that “The devil hat power T’assume a pleasing shape.” Next there is the theme of guilt that reoccurs when Claudius answers in an aside in act III scene One  “O’ t’is too true! How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!” to Polonius’ remark that “T’is too much proved – that with devotion’s visage and pious action we do sugar o’er the devil himself.”  It is seen again when he begs forgiveness for his foul deeds. The theme of guilt is manifest in this soliloquy in the sense that he ponders over how guilty men may “proclaim their malefactions” “sitting at a play.”

Like everything else the kind of themes vary according to the structure of the soliloquy. This soliloquy may be divided into two sharp and contrasting sections. The tone of the first is passionate and the tone of the second is rational. It is the conflict between  passion and intellect that  govrns the organization of the “rogue and peasant slave” soliloquy; the passion incited by the Player’s recitation runs its turbulent course until it spends itself and Hamlet achives rational stability at the point where he says “About my brains!” He almost uses this exclamation as an antidote to passion. The first part of the soliloquy has no steady rythm and the prosody is diversified and varied. The second part, where he is more rational, the feet occur more frequently in the iambus. This builds up a sense of elation that is completed in the clarion couplet or otherwise called heroic couplet. The climatic couplet gives the soliloquy its strong dramatic thrust toward planned action that suspensefully ends the scene. Because of the structure there are two climaxes. He reaches one when spewing malicious epithets at Claudius and the other in the clarion couplet.

What is most important about the imagery in this soliloquy is that it uses dramatic and theatric imagery that links both halves of the soliloquy even though they are so different in tone. Musical imagery contrasts the two halves. The broken voice of the player contrasts the “most musical Organ” that “proclaims malefactions” We should take a note of the imagery he uses in his self-indictment  He is hit upon the head, his beard is plucked off and thrown into his face, he is tweaked by the nose, and called a lier all the way through as deep as to the lungs. These are bodily images that aim at showing himself that he is a coward all the way through. That he is “prompted by heaven and hell” is an especially important image because it contains the duality seen in so many of his soliloquies. The duality reflects the polarity of his character and the constant conflict that he is faced with. In his third soliloquy after he has met the ghost he questions “Shall I couple hell.” That the driving force for his revenge comes from both “heaven and hell” is taken for granted here.

By Tariq Khan