To Be or Not to Be

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In perhaps the most quoted line in all of literature, "To be or not to be" (3.1, line 64), Hamlet contemplates suicide. Hamlet ponders whether he should simply end the sorrows of his life quickly, i.e. suicide, or continue his life and let fortune either alleviate these struggles or continue to add more sorrows.
When we last saw Hamlet, he cursed himself for his lack of resolve and action. He watched an actor weep and moan across the stage in grief for Hecuba, the fallen queen of Troy, whom the actor had no connection to. In the previous act, Hamlet's father appeared to him in the form of a ghost to tell Hamlet that Hamlet's uncle murdered his father then married Hamlet's mother, taking Hamlet's right to the throne as the heir of Denmark in the process. For this reason, Hamlet believes he has a thousand more times a right to be angry and vengeful than this actor does. Yet, Hamlet simply cannot muster the same anger the actor has nor can he devise a plan that will exact revenge for his fallen father. Furthermore, Hamlet is also rather dubious of the claims the ghost makes. Despite his despondent behavior and uncertainty, at the end of his impassioned diatribe against himself Hamlet finally reaches a plan to test the validity of the ghost's assertions. He will stage a play with a plot that mimics the current situation; somehow a king will be murdered by a close relative and that close relative will take the queen as his wife. Hamlet will watch the reaction of Claudius and if Claudius shows a sign of grief, Hamlet's doubt will be relieved and he will murder Claudius. Hamlet at the end of this soliloquy says in a defiant tone, "The play's the thing / Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." (Act 2. Sc 2. lines 633-634) Hamle...

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... yet death is a permanent sleep. Hamlet reflects that humans suffer in this life because they do not know what the next life holds. Essentially, Hamlet comes to the realization that the fear of death makes men cowards. Hamlet believes that men dwell on what will happen in the afterlife, and because of this their sense of action is lost. In a way, Hamlet mollifies death in this soliloquy. He makes it seem like an eternal slumber that men are afraid to enter. Because men spend so much time thinking in their life on earth what this eternal sleep will be like, they lose time they could have been acting. The purpose of this soliloquy is to make Hamlet come to the realization that he should simply stop wondering what comes in the afterlife, and act now. This soliloquy makes Hamlet realize he needs to become a man of action and purpose, not a man who wallows in self pity.
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