O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. Hamlet (1.2), Hamlet
Hamlet's passionate first soliloquy provides a striking contrast to the controlled and artificial dialogue that he must exchange with Claudius and his court. The primary function of the soliloquy is to reveal to the audience Hamlet's profound melancholia and the reasons for his despair. In a disjointed outpouring of disgust, anger, sorrow, and grief, Hamlet explains that, without exception, everything in his world is either futile or contemptible. His speech is saturated with suggestions of rot and corruption, as seen in the basic usage of words like "rank" (138) and "gross" (138), and in the metaphor associating the world with "an unweeded garden" (137). Read on...
Points to Ponder
Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart
As I do thee.-- Something too much of this. --
There is a play to-night before the king;
One scene of it comes near the circumstance
Which I have told thee of my father's death.
Hamlet (3.2), Hamlet to Horatio
"Shakespeare has introduced these traveling players with a double purpose. The person who recites the death of Priam with such feeling, in
the first place, makes a deep impression on the prince himself; he sharpens the conscience of the wavering youth: and, accordingly, this scene becomes a prelude to that other, where, in the second place, the little play produces such effect upon the King. Hamlet sees himself reproved and put to shame by the player, who feels so deep a sympathy in foreign and fictitious woes; and the thought of making an experiment upon the conscience of his stepfather is in consequence suggested to him." [Goethe. Wilhelm Meister's Critique of Hamlet]
The first recorded production of Hamlet was by the Chamberlain's Men in 1600 or 1601, so it is likely that Shakespeare composed the play in early 1600. According to contemporary references, Hamlet became an instant hit, and the great Shakespearean actor, Richard Burbage, received much acclaim in the lead role. Hamlet's popularity grew steadily until the closing of the theatres by the puritanical government (1642-1660). During that time it was performed as an abridged playlet at taverns and inns, along with all the other great dramas that suffered at the hands of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England. After the theatres re-opened, Hamlet was brought back to the stage by author and entrepreneur, William Davenant, and the play's popularity has been constant ever since.