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Abby Broadhurst

November 22, 2013


AP Literature

CSI: Hamlet

Hamlet’s Act 2 soliloquy highlights the highly emotional state that Hamlet finds himself in - overwhelmed

by indecision and guilt - and conveys the change in his thought processes as he eventually manages to muster the

resolve to determine, once and for all, whether Claudius is the culprit in the late Hamlet’s death. After watching an

actor become overwrought by emotion while portraying a scene, Hamlet scorns himself for not having the same

emotional response to his own, real situation and thus determines that he is a coward, lacking the courage to act.

This is evident when Hamlet proposes a rhetorical question, asking himself, “Am I a coward?” (2.2.598). Hamlet

then goes on to expound upon his own self-deprecating thoughts as he attacks his own character through harsh

sarcasm. In bitter tones, Hamlet states that “this is most brave, that I, the son of a dear father murdered…must like a

whore unpack my heart with words” (2.2.611-614). The contemptuous tone and connotations of the words he uses

emphasize Hamlet’s own self-perception. Clearly, Hamlet feels himself to be unworthy of being prince as he, who

has the motivation, cannot take action but can only speak in an attempt to explain his thoughts. After cursing

himself for his inactivity, there is a clear shift in the passage as Hamlet orders himself to essentially ‘pull himself

together,’ stating “About, my brains!” (2.2.617). This is an obvious attempt for Hamlet to regain a sense of control

over the situation and his earnest desire to think rationally ultimately transforms his emotional outburst into a more

logical and focused line of thought. The caesura following “About, my brains!” reinforces this shift in thinking as

that which follows is Hamlet’s plan to assess for himself whether Claudius is indeed guilty of murder. Reminding

himself that the only evidence that his father’s death was indeed murder were the words of a ghost, Hamlet states

“the spirit [he has] seen may be a dev’l” playing upon his weaknesses in order to “damn [him]” (2.2.627-632). This

is significant as it is Hamlet’s first acknowledgement of the fact that the spirit who first spoke to him may not

actually be his father, but rather a devil meant to tempt Hamlet into making rash and illogical actions. Hamlet’s

thoughts transition from being purely emotional to determinedly more logical through this passage as he attempts to

understand the nuances of the situation at hand and resolve the turmoil of emotions that have thus far overwhelmed

him.