"How does Shakespeare use the literary device of SILILOQUY to explore character, theme and plot?"


1. Introduction (Outline Seneca)

Literary Device = Silioguys. Exploration = Character, Theme, Plot. Silioguy = an act of speaking thoughts aloud when the character is on their own or regardless of any hearers.

Literary Critic, Doran stated "Hamlet without Seneca is inconceivable", as Hamlet is too dependent on the Senecan Structure, which involves the idea of sililoquys. Seneca's plays use hyperbolic language, frequently within long, rhetorical monologues. Shakespeare was influenced by Seneca and utilises the literary device, in mulitple ways to explore the plays main aspects, such as character, theme and plot.

Seneca (4BC - 65AD), The Roman philosopher and poet, had the greatest impact on the development of revenge tragedy using Greek mythology - his reworking of Greek tales was fundamental in defining the genre of Revenge Tragedy. His plays followed a five-part structure, that Shakespeare uses: Act 1 - a ghost appeals for vengeance, Act 2 - the revenger plans revenge, Act 3 - the confrontation of the avenger and victim, Act 4 - vengeance is prevented, Act 5 - revenge is completed.

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2. Sililoquy One

Sililoquys are usuaually used by Shakespeare as it gives the audience an overview of what has happened, as well as an insight into the character's thoughts and feelings.

In Hamlet's first sililoquy, we learn that Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, has married her late husband's brother, therefore shakespeare is exploring the character of Hamlet as well as his mother. "Married with mine uncle/My father's brother" is stated so simply and plainly that Shakespeare's audience clearly understands the bitter reason for Hamlet's sadness. "Oh most wicked speed," suggests Hamlet's thoughts and feelings towards what his mother is done. The word 'wicked' is strong and its connotations are held to relate with evil, witches and so on. Hamlet continues to explore this theme of weak women by stating: "Frailty thy name is woman". He is so disgusted by his mother's quick marriage, that he becomes mysogynistic. By using derrogative phrases like this, Shakespeare is making Hamlets thoughts and feelings clear to the audience. The audience will have constructed their own opinions about Getrude, as contextually, the queen was supposed to of mourned for a year. to the audience, Gertrude would have been acting in a way that is against God. They now know that Gertrude is in the wrong and is weak - and so this has influenced his feelings about all women.

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3. Sililoquy Two

Shakespeare explores the plot of the play in Hamlet's second sililoquy. Hamlet is a Renaissance man, therefore we can expect Shakespeare to utilise questions within his speech - however in this sililoquy, questions and exclamatives, as well as short sentences such as "Oh fie!", are used to mark his extreme agitation. However, his reptition of "Remember thee" relates to the plot as Hamlet needs to remember his mission and avenge his father's death. Also, by questioning whether he should "couple hell", Hamlet relates to a reoccuring theme in the play, being religion. Contextually, many people would have been Protestants - meaning they would not believe in ghosts. This question suggests Hamlet is unsure whether the ghost is real and wants to test it's validity.

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4. Sililoquy Three

In Hamlet's third sililoquy, Shakespeare adds to the plot of the play, as well as exploring the revenge tragedy theme and the role of Hamlet's character in terms of vengeance. Hamlet makes a definite plan to test his Uncle's guilt and test the validity of the ghost. Shakespeare uses simple language rather than hyperbole, so that his audience knows with clarity, that Hamlet is now attempting to take action/plan revenge. "...I'll have the players/Play something something like the murder of my father..." Not only does this show the next step in the plot, it suggests that Hamlet is not the typical revenge hero - as he is not taking immediate action and simply killing his father - he is a thinker, who will plan his revenge before acting in it.

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5. Sililoquy Four

This famous sililoquy is used by Shakespeare to show Hamlet's philosophical and depressed character. "To be, or not to be" is the question, as Hamlet asks himself whether it is best to suffer or fight. Shakespeare uses lists and metaphors, such as: "sea of troubles" when Hamlet questions if he should fight. He does this to add to Hamlet's theatrical language, in order to entertain his audience and make them realise his meloncholy. From this sililoquy, Hamlet can be percieved as an overthinker, allowing the audience to learn more of his untypical, un-noble attitude - "thus conscience does make cowards of us all,". Shakespeare wants his audience to internalise the fact Hamlet is not the typical revenge tragedy hero, so that they question if the revenge will be succesfull, or will even happen.

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