Act 4

what is hamlets state of mind during his soliloquy in act 4.4

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The fourth scene of Act IV contains another of Hamlet’s famous soliloquies – “How all occasions do inform against me.” This speech reiterates, basically, the point that Hamlet made in his previous soliloquy about the actor playing Hecuba. The basic position of Hamlet is one of befuddlement that these soldiers can go off to their deaths over a patch of worthless ground while he, who has every reason to rage and war and battle Claudius, is introspective and melancholy, and chokes off his action with excessive contemplation. He remarks, “Rightly to be great / Is not to stir without great argument, / But greatly to find quarrel in a straw / When honor’s at the stake.” In other words, the greatness of man comes not with the greatness of an occasion, but with treating any occasion, however petty, as an occasion for greatness. One should not overthink, but do. Of course, this is not Hamlet’s character at all, and as soon as he has resolved that his thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth, he is off to England, leaving revenge for another day, if ever. Indeed, Hamlet seems to express the central irony in his case – it is not enough that his thoughts be bloody. They already are bloody. What he needs, or what his father’s spirit needs, is bloody deeds, not thoughts, and those are, as ever, beyond our protagonist.