Soliloquy Notes Soliloquy #6: “How All Occasions Do Inform Against

Soliloquy Notes
Soliloquy #6: “How All Occasions Do Inform Against Me”
HAMLET: How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.
Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and god-like reason
To fust in us unused. Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on the event,
A thought which, quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward, I do not know
Why yet I live to say 'This thing's to do;'
Sith I have cause and will and strength and means
To do't. Examples gross as earth exhort me:
Witness this army of such mass and charge
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit with divine ambition puff'd
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death and danger dare,
Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honour's at the stake. How stand I then,
That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep? while, to my shame, I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,
Hamlet sees that he is being chastised
by what he sees going on around him, as though
fate is telling him that he’s a slacker, where
revenge is concerned. He asks himself about
the nature of “man.” How can humans claim to
be better than the beasts if we don’t do the
things that we should? If all we do is “sleep and
feed,” how can we claim that we are more noble
or better than any animal in the fields?
He poses the rhetorical question about
why God would give us the ability to think and
reason if we don’t use those abilities in our
lives. He personalizes this by asking why he
keeps reminding himself that “this thing’s to
do,” meaning that he needs to get to the
business of killing Claudius, when he just keeps
putting it off. He thinks that he is one quarter
wisdom—knowing what he should do—and
three parts coward—being hesitant to do it.
He uses the example of Fortinbras’s
army to inspire him.
He points out that
Fortinbras is a “delicate and tender prince,” a
young man who does not know the ways of the
world, though Hamlet, now that he has seen the
Ghost and the evil in the heart of his uncle,
knows more of the ways of the world. But
Fortinbras and his men are marching off to war,
many to die, for a piece of land that has no real
value. But they are doing something! They are
acting on their thoughts and ideas, while he has
done nothing, even though he has the motive
for action and revenge.
This soliloquy echoes the “rogue and
peasant slave” speech in that Hamlet knows
that others seem to be able to act on their
feelings and accomplish what needs to be done,
while he just goes on and on thinking and
thinking and thinking some more. A big part of
the theme of this play is in these actions of
Hamlet. He questions why he feels differently
than he acts, and he points out to us the
universal human truth that we don’t always do
the things that we know we should.
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain? O, from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!
He sees the futility of Fortinbras’s campaign
against the Poles. They are going to fight for a piece
of land that, if won, will not be big enough to house
all of their graves. There is no way that this battle is
worth the deaths that will come from it. Yet they are
doing something! And Hamlet has to admire that.
Again, he reiterates that the example of
Fortinbras’s army has brought back his resolution to
get his uncle and exact his revenge. He will have the
“bloody” thoughts in the future so that he can
accomplish what needs to be done here and now.