It is not an easy task to discuss Shakespeare’s soliloquies. As a king in the world of literature, William Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time. He was one of the most promising and undoubtedly the most skillful pioneer and a user of soliloquy.
Before approaching for a brief discussion about Shakespeare’s soliloquies, it is better to have a few words regarding soliloquy.
A soliloquy is an “act of talking to oneself.” Sometimes it appears in the form of a monologue.
However, there is a difference between a monologue and a soliloquy.
A character usually makes an extended or lengthy speech to herself or himself in soliloquies. That means the character has no intention to deliver the speech to other characters. In a word, no one will be there to hear it.
But, in monologues, a character delivers speeches with clear intentions that others should hear.
So the above brief discussion has made one thing clear that the literary term ‘soliloquy’ means the utterance of a specific character that uncovers that character’s internal thoughts. Moreover, the entire process occurs only when the person associated with this act remains alone. William Shakespeare is perhaps the best creator of such situations in his plays, thereby the greatest inventor of soliloquies.
Hamlet and Macbeth, Shakespeare’s two most popular plays, show how the English playwright develops circumstances in some powerful scenes to invent the time-winning soliloquies. The soliloquies in Macbeth and those in Hamlet reveal deep-seated conflicts in the minds of two complicated characters, Macbeth and Hamlet.
The best part of Shakespeare’s soliloquies is they unveil how innermost conflicts can produce some crude acts. The English playwright has portrayed the characters associated with the soliloquies uniquely so that the storyline in every act becomes clear and vivid.
For example, both Macbeth and Hamlet portray how the innermost conflicts gradually help develop diabolical plots to satisfy the thirst for power and revenge.
Why Shakespeare Used Soliloquy
A soliloquy in a drama provides the audience with the actual thoughts lurking inside a specific character. As a playwright, Shakespeare always wanted to develop irony in his most plays, and soliloquy played the leading role in bringing that irony. It is undeniable that irony can give birth to suspense. And suspense makes the audience engaged for the next scene in a drama.
Apart from this, soliloquies always have the most effective visual component, which allows the audience to raise their excitement to know the next step of a character in the drama.
Soliloquies in Macbeth always emerge as some most popular Shakespearean soliloquies. The first one is present in Act –I, Scene-vii. It begins with “If it were done when it is done…..”.
It begins showing Macbeth is leaving the banquet hall to consider the question of murdering King Duncan. And an innermost conflict starts pouring in Macbeth as soon as he leaves the hall. The thought of murdering Duncan at first worries him about its consequences in this life.
He thinks that murder can’t end with itself, and it sometimes recoils on the murderer.
Macbeth thinks that by killing king Duncan, he may teach others how to assassinate a king, and one day they could murder him. This idea of perishment creates an uneasiness in him. He is also aware of the fact that justice is impartial. It serves the poisoner himself with a cup containing the same ingredients he once administered to his enemy. Moreover, Duncan is Macbeth’s king and a guest in his house. Therefore it is his duty and responsibility to protect the king.
On the contrary, Macbeth can’t diminish and tame his greedy ambition. And, ambition most often vaults extremely high and thereby over-reaches itself.
This soliloquy reveals the inner character of Macbeth. He is imaginative, and at the same time, sensitive too. A varied mixture of emotions in him uncovers his anxiety and his desperate attitude to get his motives clear. And, it is the moral nature of Macbeth that brings this conflict in his mind.
Shakespeare’s soliloquies usually depict one character’s moral nature and conscience when he or she suffers from innermost conflict. And plays like Macbeth and hamlet are filled with such soliloquies.