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Hamlet meditates on the following question: Is it better to accept life's hardships (sickness, aging, poverty, etc.), or should one reject life and choose to die. If one chooses to live, he may overcome life's obstacle. If one chooses to die, that decision is irrevocable and there may be torments after death that are far worse than those endured in living. Perhaps it is best to endure familiar ills than "to fly to others we know not of."
To be, or not to be, that is the question.
Is it nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to fight against a sea of troubles,
And end them by fighting?
In this soliloquy, Hamlet is questioning whether it is more noble to suffer in his mind for the murderous deed done by his Uncle Claudius or should he fight Claudius? Hamlet is questioning whether he should just suffer mentally, knowing his Uncle Claudius has murdered his father or should he fight Claudius and end his suffering? That is the question--to be or not to be?
Then again, Hamlet talks of death or sleep which is in reference to eternal sleep:
To die, to sleep,
Nothing more, and by sleeping, to be able to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That the body gets as part of life is an ending
To be wished for very earnestly. To die, to sleep,
Here, Hamlet is wishing for death to end his suffering. If only he could go to sleep eternally, his suffering would be over. To sleep the eternal sleep would end his misery. He is so filled with suffering and misery until he wishes not to live.
But if he should sleep, he could possibly dream. Here he is worried about the dreams of death. Perhaps, they are filled with horror and then death would be no better than life. Hamlet is indeed in a terrible predicament. To be or not to be is his question. Then when he answers himself, he is worried that his suffering will never end, not even in death.
Perhaps to dream. Yes, there's the catch,
For what dreams may come in that sleep of death,
When we have left this life on earth,
Must make us stop. There's the respect
That makes a mess of long life,
Clearly, Hamlet is in turmoil. To live or not to live is similar to what he is asking. To live is filled with suffering. To die may not be better. Hamlet is torn with questions. There seems to be no answer or end to his suffering.
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