home contact

Hamlet's Soliloquy: O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I! (2.2)


In addition to revealing Hamlet's plot to catch the king in his guilt, Hamlet's second soliloquy uncovers the very essence of Hamlet's true conflict. For he is undeniably committed to seeking revenge for his father, yet he cannot act on behalf of his father due to his revulsion toward extracting that cold and calculating revenge. "Hamlet's sense of himself as a coward is derived from a crude, simplistic judgment turning on whether or not he has yet taken any action against the man who murdered his father. His self-condemnation takes several bizarre forms, including histrionic imaginings of a series of demeaning insults that he absorbs like a coward because he feels he has done nothing to take revenge on Claudius" (Newell 61).

Determined to convince himself to carry out the premeditated murder of his uncle, Hamlet works himself into a frenzy (the culmination of which occurs at lines 357-8). He hopes that his passions will halt his better judgement and he will then be able to charge forth and kill Claudius without hesitation. But Hamlet again fails to quell his apprehensions of committing murder and cannot act immediately. So he next tries to focus his attention on a plan to ensure Claudius admits his own guilt. He returns to an idea that had crossed his mind earlier -- that of staging the play The Mousetrap. Hamlet is convinced that, as Claudius watches a re-enactment of his crime, he will surely reveal his own guilt. Hamlet cannot take the word of his father's ghost, who really might be "the devil" (573), tricking him into damning himself. Thus, he must have more material proof before he takes Claudius's life -- he must "catch the conscience of the king."

Back to Soliloquy Annotations

Questions for Review

1. Hamlet asks, "Am I a coward?" (543). What would your answer be to Hamlet's question?
2. Does Hamlet give an honest account of his nature in this soliloquy?

How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Hamlet Soliloquy Analysis. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. < >.

Newell, Alex. The Soliloquies of Hamlet. London: Associated Unversity Presses, 1991.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Betty Bealey. Toronto: Academic Press Canada, 1963.


More Resources

 Divine Providence in Hamlet
 What is Tragic Irony?
 Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
 Shakespeare's Sources for Hamlet

 Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy
 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers
 Daily Life in Shakespeare's London
 Life in Stratford (structures and guilds)
 Life in Stratford (trades, laws, furniture, hygiene)
 Stratford School Days: What Did Shakespeare Read?

 Games in Shakespeare's England [A-L]
 Games in Shakespeare's England [M-Z]
 An Elizabethan Christmas
 Clothing in Elizabethan England

 Queen Elizabeth: Shakespeare's Patron
 King James I of England: Shakespeare's Patron
 The Earl of Southampton: Shakespeare's Patron
 Going to a Play in Elizabethan London

 Ben Jonson and the Decline of the Drama
 Publishing in Elizabethan England
 Shakespeare's Audience
 Religion in Shakespeare's England

 Alchemy and Astrology in Shakespeare's Day
 Entertainment in Elizabethan England
 London's First Public Playhouse
 Shakespeare Hits the Big Time

The noted actor J. Forbes Robertson as Hamlet, 1897

More to Explore

 Hamlet: The Complete Play with Explanatory Notes
 Extensive Analysis of Act 2, Scene 2
 The Hamlet and Ophelia Subplot
 The Norway Subplot in Hamlet

 Hamlet: Plot Summary with Key Passages
 Hamlet Basics
 Analysis of the Characters in Hamlet
 Deception in Hamlet
 Problem Plays and Revenge Tragedy

 The Purpose of The Murder of Gonzago
 The Dumb-Show: Why Hamlet Reveals his Knowledge to Claudius
 Hamlet's Relationship with the Ghost
 Philological Examination Questions on Hamlet

 Quotations from Hamlet (with commentary)
 Hamlet Study Quiz (with detailed answers)
 Analysis of I am sick at heart (1.1)
 Hamlet: Q & A

 Soliloquy Analysis: O this too too... (1.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!... (2.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: To be, or not to be... (3.1)
Soliloquy Analysis: Tis now the very witching time of night... (3.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: Now might I do it pat... (3.3)
Soliloquy Analysis: How all occasions do inform against me... (4.4)

Ophelia's Burial and Christian Rituals
 The Baker's Daughter: Ophelia's Nursery Rhymes
 Hamlet as National Hero
 The Elder Hamlet: The Kingship of Hamlet's Father
 Claudius and the Condition of Denmark

 In Secret Conference: The Meeting Between Claudius and Laertes
 O Jephthah - Toying with Polonius
 The Death of Polonius and its Impact on Hamlet's Character
 Blank Verse and Diction in Shakespeare's Hamlet

 Hamlet's Silence
 An Excuse for Doing Nothing: Hamlet's Delay
 Foul Deeds Will Rise: Hamlet and Divine Justice
 Defending Claudius - The Charges Against the King
 Shakespeare's Fools: The Grave-Diggers in Hamlet

 Hamlet's Humor: The Wit of Shakespeare's Prince of Denmark
 All About Yorick
 Hamlet's Melancholy: The Transformation of the Prince
 Hamlet's Antic Disposition: Is Hamlet's Madness Real?

 The Significance of the Ghost in Armor
 The Significance of Ophelia's Flowers
 Ophelia and Laertes
 Mistrusted Love: Ophelia and Polonius