Hamlet’s first soliloquy in Shakespeare’s play, the speech beginning ‘O, that this also too heavy flesh would melt’ (in part editions, ‘O, the this as well too sullied flesh would melt’ while, in some others, ‘O, the this also too sallied flesh would melt’) is one of the most famous speeches in the play, and also as with all of Hamlet’s soliloquies, the language needs some unpacking.

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First, this is a reminder of the decided in full, adhered to by some words the analysis. The ‘O, the this too too solid flesh would melt’ soliloquy have the right to be found in Act ns Scene 2 of Hamlet. (We’ve summarised Hamlet here and also offer an evaluation of the play’s themes in a different post.)

O, that this as well too solid flesh would certainly meltThaw and resolve itself into a dew!Or the the Everlasting had not fix’dHis canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,Seem come me every the offers of this world!Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis one unweeded garden,That grow to seed; points rank and gross in naturePossess the merely. That it should come to this!But 2 months dead: nay, no so much, not two:So great a king; that was, to this,Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my motherThat he might not beteem the winds that heavenVisit her face too roughly. Heaven and also earth!Must i remember? why, she would certainly hang ~ above him,As if boost of appetite had actually grownBy what the fed on: and yet, within a month –Let me not think on’t – Frailty, thy name is mrs! –A little month, or ere those shoes were oldWith i beg your pardon she follow’d my negative father’s body,Like Niobe, every tears: – why she, also she –O, God! a beast, that desires discourse that reason,Would have actually mourn’d longer – married through my uncle,My father’s brother, but no an ext like mine fatherThan ns to Hercules: within a month:Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tearsHad left the flushing in she galled eyes,She married. O, many wicked speed, come postWith such dexterity come incestuous sheets!It is no nor that cannot involved good:But break, mine heart; for i must hold my tongue.


‘O, that this also too solid/sullied/sallied flesh would melt’: also the first line that this Shakespeare soliloquy presents a number of interpretive problems. The first Quarto (or bad Quarto’) to press of Hamlet in 1603 had actually ‘sallied’, which way ‘attacked’, ‘assailed’, or ‘beguiled’. However, offered that this to be a ‘bad’ printing of the pat (elsewhere in the version, the celebrated ‘To it is in or no to be’ soliloquy opens rather ‘To be or no to be, i there’s the point’), many editors pick to ‘correct’ the word ‘sallied’ to ‘sullied’, definition contaminated. Meanwhile, the to press of Hamlet in the very first Folio that 1623 has actually ‘solid’.

There’s a situation for all three words in the context: Hamlet may well feeling his really being is under attack, offered his father’s current death and also his mother’s swift remarriage to Claudius. Similarly, Hamlet is i heard with points being hurt or rotten, therefore ‘sullied’ together ‘contaminated’ would additionally chime. However given the context, most likely the most mainstream interpretation is the ‘solid’ is the right word here, since Hamlet go on come talk about his an extremely flesh ‘resolving’ (i.e. Dissolving from a solid state ‘into a dew’).


Interestingly, in the Arden edition of the play, Hamlet: amendment Edition (The Arden Shakespeare third Series)

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, the Oscar-winning gibbs Daniel Day-Lewis also withdrew indigenous the role in 1989, mid-run, after he allegedly began ‘seeing’ the ghost the his father, the former Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, that had died in 1972.

But in spite of – or, perhaps, because of – this emotional intensity and complexity, actors down the eras have to be keen to placed their own stamp ~ above the role, consisting of David Garrick (who had a unique wig the made Hamlet’s hair was standing on end when the ghost of his dad appeared), Laurence Olivier, man Gielgud, Mel Gibson, buy it Bernhardt (one of plenty of women come portray the Prince the Denmark: check out the picture below), Ethan Hawke, Keanu Reeves, Kenneth Branagh, Maxine Peake, and even man Wilkes Booth, the male who assassinated Abraham Lincoln.

Hamlet is often qualified as ‘a guy who cannot consist of his mind’. Indeed, the publicity because that Laurence Olivier’s commemorated 1948 movie of Hamlet made lot of this description of Hamlet’s character. The words that often tend to come up once people shot to analyse the personality or personality of Hamlet are indecisive, delaying, and also uncertain, with ‘inaction’ being the vital defining attribute of what Hamlet in reality does during the play. Certainly, the poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge thought Hamlet’s main fault was his indecision: the detected ‘an practically enormous intellectual task and a proportionate aversion to real activity consequent ~ above it’ – i.e., Hamlet is much better at thinking about doing things than actually doing them.

And yet we can argue the Hamlet doesn’t exactly delay, or at least, that does not delay because the is indecisive, yet for sound, practical reasons. Hamlet cannot be certain that the Ghost really is the soul of his dead father, and also not some fiend it is been sent out to cause mischief and also goad him to murder. For this reason he demands to discover out whether Claudius yes, really is guilty of murdering Hamlet Senior, and thus even if it is the Ghost deserve to be trusted.

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The author of this article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literature critic and also lecturer in English in ~ Loughborough University. The is the writer of, among others, The secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey with Curiosities the History

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 and The great War, The rubbish Land and the Modernist lengthy Poem.