In this lesson you will learn about the objective third-person point of view present in Shakespeare’s tragic play, ‘Hamlet’, and how this point of view impacts the storytelling.
Objective Point of View
To write in objective point of view or not to write in objective point of view–that is the question. William Shakespeare wrote his famous tragedy Hamlet about a Danish prince who struggles with his father’s death and uncle’s likely betrayal, as a play to be performed. As such, this story is written in objective third person (otherwise known as dramatic) point of view.Objective third person point of view presents the action of the play through dialogue and without direct author commentary.
This differs from third person omniscient or limited omniscient where the reader can glimpse inside the mind or minds of the characters and the author can comment directly on either the characters or the action. Using objective point of view limits the author as readers can only enter the mind of the characters through the dramatic conventions of soliloquy or asides. In his play Shakespeare uses both conventions expertly to convey Hamlet’s inner turmoil.
Soliloquies in Hamlet
One way Shakespeare lets the readers and the audience know the innermost thoughts of the characters is through soliloquy. A soliloquy is a long speech given by a character who is alone onstage, revealing his or her inner thoughts.
Soliloquies are a break in the action of the play, so they are often used sparingly. Hamlet is famous for its soliloquies, most notably the ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ speech performed in Act Three of the play. In this speech, Hamlet pours out his thoughts, and the reader sees that he is contemplating suicide. Even though the dialogue exchanges earlier in the play hint that Hamlet is sad about the death of his father and angry over his mother’s quick remarriage to his uncle, this is the moment where readers really know the extent of Hamlet’s grief and despondency.Without the use of the dramatic convention of soliloquy, readers would only see what the other characters see, a man who is flippant and a bit erratic. Because of soliloquies, readers see much more what is going on in Hamlet’s very complicated mind.
He is wrestling with his father’s death, a fact that the other characters know. What they do not know is that Hamlet suspects his uncle murdered his father and will do whatever it takes to find out the truth. This also creates dramatic irony in the story as what Hamlet says and does contradicts what the reader knows to be his true feelings.
Asides in Hamlet
Another dramatic convention used to convey the characters’ inner thoughts is the use of asides. An aside is a small speech where the character speaks to himself or herself in an apparent undertone so that the audience can overhear his or her thoughts. Even though there may be other characters onstage, they are ‘deaf’ to the musings of the character speaking the aside.Asides have several functions in Hamlet.
Two of the most notable functions are to show Hamlet’s distaste and mistrust of his uncle and Polonius’s misgivings about Hamlet. Several times in the play, Hamlet speaks an aside after his uncle says or does something that he dislikes. This is a clue to the reader that Hamlet is not fond of his uncle and doesn’t trust his uncle’s intentions. With the use of aside, Shakespeare is able to give a quick message to the reader that Hamlet is not as oblivious to his uncle’s intentions as he seems.
We also see Polonius’s thoughts in asides. Polonius is concerned about Hamlet’s behavior for the king’s sake. He is also concerned because of his daughter’s infatuation with Hamlet. When Hamlet aims jabs at Polonius, we see in asides that Polonius is unsure of Hamlet’s intentions.
Is Hamlet as oblivious as he seems, or is there a method to Hamlet’s madness? This helps the reader see one theme of the play–that all is not as it seems.
In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the playwright uses objective third person point of view to tell the story of a Danish prince wrestling with his father’s death and his uncle’s possible betrayal. Two dramatic conventions that make the storytelling possible are soliloquy and asides. These conventions allow the reader to see inside the minds of characters, something third person objective point of view makes difficult. Both dramatic conventions allow dramatic irony and theme to be exposed. Through soliloquy and asides, readers see that Hamlet is not just the grieving son.
He is also the justice-seeking son ready to avenge his father, something that his outward actions and words to other characters keep hidden.