Thursday, April 24, 2014

HAMLET - SOLILOQUIES - THE ASIDE

The SOLILOQUY was a very convenient device in the drama for allowing the audience, in the least possible time, to follow the inmost thought and purpose of a character. It was in constant use down to very recent times. Moreover, it is a fact and common practice that people do talk to themselves under stress of thought or emotion, usually in very short sentences, but nevertheless considerably self-explanatory. It was therefore legitimately based on human experience. Modern audiences will have none of it, however, except perhaps, as a series of swear words. The reason perhaps is that it seems too highly artificial to the majority who have not seen the phenomenon, and if they did see it, would consider it as a species of insanity. Their objection, too, is based on the 'realistic' conception of the theatre prevalent since 1900 and owing much of its spread to one David Belasco of New York, who tried to have everything 'real' on his sets, thereby ruining the plays, the actors and particularly the imaginations of his audiences. There can be no 'realism' about the theatre. It is all make believe, a fancy, a dream. The only realism it can have is the reality of illusion it creates in the imagination of the audiences.

SOLILOQUIES were useful for letting the audience know what was going on elsewhere or what some other character intended. They were sometimes long, as Hamlet's were, and, of course, modern audiences will not tolerate long speeches except under very unusual circumstances.

LIST OF HAMLET'S SOLILOQUIES

  1. Act 1, Sc. 2, line 129
  2. Act 1, Sc. 5, line 92
  3. Act 11, Sc. 2, line 576
  4. Act 111, Sc. 1, line 56--'To be or not to be...'
  5. Act 111, Sc. 2, line 406
  6. Act 111, Sc. 3, line 73
  7. Act 1V, Sc. 4, line 32.


THE ASIDE

...a brief soliloquy while other characters were on the stage and not supposed to be heard by them. It served the same purpose as the soliloquy--to give the audience an idea of what was going on, or of the character's personal opinions. Asides are common enough in any assemblage today, but a curse to a theatre audience, because the actors have to speak so loudly for the audience to be able to hear, that it seems absurd to assume that those who are so much closer on stage have not heard. Also the modern audience takes the aside as an insult; it would rather judge action, personalities and issues itself. There is only one Aside in Hamlet--Laertes' speech (Act V, Sc.2, line 306).

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