10 Great Shakespeare Soliloquies: Hamlet



Our expert panel handpicked some of their favourite soliloquies. Today, we reveal number three on their list of 10 great Shakespeare soliloquies.

Compiled by Andy McLean

Join the debate

Which Shakespeare soliloquy bowls you over? Share your choice on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.

Hamlet (Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2)

As well as being a bit handy with a pen, William Shakespeare was also an actor. So, when we hear Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act 2 Scene 2, it’s tempting to imagine that we are hearing the playwright’s own thoughts about acting.

“This is a soliloquy where an actor (playing Hamlet) reflects upon watching another actor perform,” explains Peter Evans, Bell Shakespeare’s Artistic Director. “It’s so meta, it’s unbelievable. Hamlet is blown away by the actor’s emotion and wonders if it was more genuine than Hamlet’s own feelings. Here, Shakespeare poses the question: ‘What is acting?’”

Another way this soliloquy chimes with Evans is its element of surprise. “Hamlet appears to have finally got some joy out of these actors. Then, once he’s alone, he turns to the audience and tells us how he’s really feeling. He unloads all this self-hatred and rage and depression and sadness. It’s a soliloquy that packs a real punch.”