Hamlet’s first soliloquy in Shakespeare’s play, the speech beginning ‘O, the this too too solid flesh would certainly melt’ (in some editions, ‘O, that this too too sullied flesh would certainly melt’ while, in some others, ‘O, that this too too sallied flesh would melt’) is among the most renowned speeches in the play, and also as with every one of Hamlet’s soliloquies, the language needs some unpacking.

You are watching: Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt


First, this is a reminder that the decided in full, complied with by some words of analysis. The ‘O, that this too too hard flesh would melt’ soliloquy have the right to be discovered in Act ns Scene 2 of Hamlet. (We’ve summarised Hamlet here and also offer an analysis of the play’s themes in a separate post.)

O, that this also too hard flesh would certainly meltThaw and also resolve itself into a dew!Or that the Everlasting had not fix’dHis canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,Seem come me all the uses of this world!Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,That grows to seed; points rank and gross in naturePossess it merely. That it should concerned this!But two months dead: nay, no so much, not two:So fantastic a king; the was, come this,Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to mine motherThat he might not beteem the winds the heavenVisit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!Must ns remember? why, she would hang top top him,As if boost of appetite had actually grownBy what it fed on: and yet, in ~ a month –Let me not think on’t – Frailty, thy name is mrs! –A tiny month, or ere those shoes were oldWith i beg your pardon she follow’d my poor father’s body,Like Niobe, every tears: – why she, also she –O, God! a beast, that desires discourse of reason,Would have mourn’d much longer – married through my uncle,My father’s brother, yet no an ext like mine fatherThan i to Hercules: in ~ a month:Ere however the salt of most unrighteous tearsHad left the flushing in her galled eyes,She married. O, many wicked speed, to postWith such dexterity come incestuous sheets!It is not nor the cannot concerned good:But break, my heart; for i must host my tongue.


‘O, that this too too solid/sullied/sallied flesh would melt’: also the first line of this Shakespeare soliloquy gift a variety of interpretive problems. The very first Quarto (or bad Quarto’) to press of Hamlet in 1603 had ‘sallied’, which method ‘attacked’, ‘assailed’, or ‘beguiled’. However, given that this to be a ‘bad’ print of the beat (elsewhere in the version, the commemorated ‘To it is in or not to be’ soliloquy opens instead ‘To be or no to be, ns there’s the point’), numerous editors select to ‘correct’ the word ‘sallied’ to ‘sullied’, meaning contaminated. Meanwhile, the print of Hamlet in the an initial Folio the 1623 has ‘solid’.

There’s a situation for all three words in the context: Hamlet may well feel his an extremely being is under attack, provided his father’s current death and also his mummy swift remarriage to Claudius. Similarly, Hamlet is obsessed with things being diseased or rotten, therefore ‘sullied’ as ‘contaminated’ would additionally chime. However given the context, probably the most mainstream translate is that ‘solid’ is the appropriate word here, because Hamlet walk on come talk around his an extremely flesh ‘resolving’ (i.e. Dissolve from a hard state ‘into a dew’).


Interestingly, in the Arden execution of the play, Hamlet: modification Edition (The Arden Shakespeare third Series)

*
*
*
, the Oscar-winning gibbs Daniel Day-Lewis also withdrew native the duty in 1989, mid-run, after the allegedly started ‘seeing’ the ghost of his father, the previous Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, that had died in 1972.

But despite – or, perhaps, due to the fact that of – this emotionally intensity and also complexity, actors under the periods have to be keen to placed their very own stamp top top the role, consisting of David Garrick (who had actually a special wig the made Hamlet’s hair was standing on end when the ghost of his dad appeared), Laurence Olivier, man Gielgud, Mel Gibson, sarah Bernhardt (one of plenty of women come portray the Prince the Denmark: watch the picture below), Ethan Hawke, Keanu Reeves, Kenneth Branagh, Maxine Peake, and also even man Wilkes Booth, the male who assassinated Abraham Lincoln.

Hamlet is often characterised as ‘a guy who cannot make up his mind’. Indeed, the publicity because that Laurence Olivier’s celebrated 1948 movie of Hamlet made lot of this summary of Hamlet’s character. The indigenous that have tendency to come up when people try to analyse the character or personality of Hamlet are indecisive, delaying, and also uncertain, v ‘inaction’ being the key defining feature of what Hamlet in reality does throughout the play. Certainly, the poet and also critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge believed Hamlet’s key fault to be his indecision: the detected ‘an virtually enormous intellectual activity and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent ~ above it’ – i.e., Hamlet is much better at thinking around doing things than actually doing them.

And yet we might argue the Hamlet doesn’t precisely delay, or at least, that does not hold-up because the is indecisive, yet for sound, practical reasons. Hamlet cannot be certain that the Ghost yes, really is the heart of his dead father, and not part fiend that’s been sent out to reason mischief and goad him come murder. Therefore he demands to discover out whether Claudius really is guilty of murdering Hamlet Senior, and thus whether the Ghost have the right to be trusted.

See more: How Much Does A Fifth Of Vodka Cost ? How Much Does A Pint Of Vodka Cost

The author of this article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literary critic and lecturer in English in ~ Loughborough University. The is the author of, among others, The secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey through Curiosities that History

*
 and The an excellent War, The garbage Land and also the Modernist lengthy Poem.