In the first soliloquy Hamlet compares his father, King Hamlet to the god Hyperion, while also contrasting King Claudius to a satyr. He also compares his mother, Queen Gertrude, who barely mourns her first husband before marrying Claudius. Prior to his soliloquy, King Claudius and Queen Gertrude makes announcements about their marriage as a celebration because they believe their people cannot grieve any longer. This upsets Hamlet even more.
Hamlet: O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt, Thaw and resolve h into a dew, Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God! How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable Seem to me all the uses of this world! Fie on't! ah, fie! 'tis an unweeded garden That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely. That it should come to this! But two months dead! Nay, not so much, not two; So excellent a king, that was, to this, Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth! Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him As if increase of appetite had grown By what it fed on; and yet, within a month— Let me not think on't! Frailty, thy name is woman— A little month, or ere those shoes were old With which she follow'd my poor father's body Like Niobe, all tears—why she, even she— O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason Would have mourn'd longer—married with my uncle, My father's brother, but no more like my father Than I to Hercules. Within a month, Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears Had left the flushing in her galled eyes, She married. O, most wicked speed, to post With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! It is not, nor it cannot come to, good. But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue!
(Act I, Scene ii, 129-159)
Hyperion vs The Satyr
Hyperion was one of the 12 the children of Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (the Heavens) known as the Titans. He is the Titan god of the sun and the Titan of the east. He is also the father of the lights of heaven--Eos the Dawn, Helios the Sun, and Selene the Moon. Hyperion is sometimes used for the name of the sun itself but he is often confused with his son, Helios.
The Satyrs are deities of the woods and mountains. They are half human and half beast; they usually have a goat's tail, flanks and hooves. While the upper part of the body is that of a human, they also have the horns of a goat. Satyrs were often depicted as roguish but faint-hearted; subversive and dangerous, yet shy and cowardly. In Greek Art they are shown as old and ugly and are known as horny creatures
The Myths in Context
Hamlet compares his father to the Titan Hyperion while also comparing his Uncle Claudius to the Saytr. Hyperion was the lord of the light. Light can be a symbol of what illuminates the mind, enlightenment and knowledge, for wisdom. Hyperion was considered wise and profound. Hamlet gives these attributes to his father, the late King Hamlet. This is how Hamlet would see his father and we can see how deeply he felt about his father. Whereas his Uncle is compared to the Satyr, the ugly, cowardly goat man. Hamlet's image of Claudius shows his disgust for the man who is marrying his mother.
"So excellent a king, that was, to this, Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth! Must I remember?"
The Story of Niobe
The Queen of Thebes, married to Amphion King of Thebes had fourteen children known as the Niobids. At a celebration in honour of Leto, Niobe bragged about her seven sons and seven daughters to Leto and mocked the goddess, who herself only had two children, Apollo and Artemis. In retaliation, she sent Apollo and Artemis to earth to slaughter all of Niobe's children. Apollo killed the seven sons while Artemis killed the seven daughters. At the sight of her dead children and husband Niobe she pleaded to the Gods to give an end to her pain. Zeus felt sorry for her and transformed her into a rock, to make her feelings of stone. However, even as a rock, Niobe continued to cry. Her endless tears pour in the rock as a stream.
Niobe herself is not a a god, but her fate was brought on by a goddess, leaving her a symbol of the mother’s eternal mourning in mythology.
Niobe in Hamlet
Part of Hamlets first Solilquy makes mention to Queen Niobe:
“Let me not think on't! Frailty, thy name is woman— A little month, or ere those shoes were old With which she follow'd my poor father's body Like Niobe, all tears—why she, even she— O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason Would have mourn'd longer—married with my uncle,”
(Act 1, Scene 2, 145-151)
Hamlet compares his mother to the Queen of Thebes, who is known as the symbol of eternal mourning, who mourned for her fourteen children even after she had turned to stone. Unlike the mourning mother, Queen Gertrude was remarried to Hamlets Uncle only a few months after her husband, King Hamlets death. Her son Hamlet is angry at Gertrude and her quickness to remarry instead of taking the time to mourn his father the way the Niobe did.