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Can you please give at least 2 points for the following question:Can you discuss how...

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melody311 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 14, 2009 at 4:29 AM via web

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Can you please give at least 2 points for the following question:

Can you discuss how the play Hamlet treats the idea of suicide morally, religiously, and aesthetically, with particular attention to hamlet's 2 statements " O , that this too too solid flesh would melt" and  " To be , or not to be "?

Tagged with hamlet, literature, quote, suicide, theme

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 15, 2009 at 8:57 AM (Answer #1)

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The question of suicide is addressed in Hamlet from a religious perspective, and viewed through the Christian belief system that states suicide is a mortal sin, one that would separate the sinner from God for all eternity.  It is the fear of what will happen to the soul in the afterlife that causes Hamlet, and others who contemplate suicide to rethink their decision.

In the "To be or not to be" speech, Hamlet is considering, weighing the option of living with his pain and feelings of loss and isolation or whether it is more noble and honorable to opt out of life and commit suicide.

"To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 't is nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them?" (Shakespeare)(III.i.55-59)

Suicide, or death, in general is a major theme in the play, and Hamlet spends a great deal of time thinking about death, truth, the meaning of life, and it is all viewed through his spirituality, or his belief system.

Hamlet experiences a great deal of emotional pain with regard to the death of his father and the fact that his mother has married her brother-in-law so quickly after her husband's unexpected death.  He is in such emotional turmoil, that he pretends to be mad, so that he can contemplate and consider all the events that take place around him

"The mental anguish Hamlet expresses in this soliloquy will be a feature of the entire play. King Hamlet was bold, decisive, and active. His son, on the other hand, is intellectual and passive. Hamlet clearly does not want to be involved in such a difficult situation. He even wishes that suicide were not a cardinal sin so that he could kill himself and be finished."

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jagtig | Salutatorian

Posted July 16, 2009 at 11:26 PM (Answer #2)

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This link is to Hamlet's first reference to the Catholic prohibition against suicide (self-murder in the language of the North). ( http://www.tailsntales.com/eng/sha/ham/tex/sel_1.html#anchor273885 )

Again, he reasons out the same in his famous "To be or not to be speech." ( http://www.tailsntales.com/eng/sha/ham/tex/sel_5.html#anchor227510  ) In this soliloquy he states that it is the ignorance of what lies "beyond the far bourne" - in the afterlife - that prevents humans from taking their own lives, "the dread of something after death," "conscience does make cowards of us all." - III,i,80 et seq.

Generally, he is very philosophical, and from the first seeks an outcome that doesn't include violence. His attempt at forcing a confession from his uncle with the play ( http://www.tailsntales.com/eng/sha/ham/tex/sel_5.html#anchor213514 ) shows this nature of his.

The slaying of Polonius is the result of a rash (brainish) act, not premeditation. It was this that caused the remainder of the action, the exile to England and the fatal duel. ( http://www.tailsntales.com/eng/sha/ham/tex/sel_7.html#anchor212881 )


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