Shakespeare is masterful at inventing characters. In Hamlet, we find the invention of a character who is the type of the anti-hero. This is an innovation of Shakespeare’s. Hamlet himself is intelligent, perceptive, wry, witty, eloquent, conflicted, and at times destructive. He is, in the words of one critic, the only character in Hamlet who could conceivably have written the play himself.
To reveal his powerful consciousness, Shakespeare invents a new kind of dramatic soliloquy. Take one dramatic monologue (perhaps the famous
“To be or not to be speech”, or “What a piece of work is man”), and examine and explore the following:
a. What is a dramatic monologue?
b. What makes a dramatic soliloquy unique and effective?
c. What is the playwright’s point in revealing character through a monologue rather than through a dialogue or a scene of action?
Does Hamlet’s eloquence change how we understand his personality and his effect on others?
d. How does Shakespeare shape diction, phrasing, rhythms, and memorable phrases, to make the monologue work?