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What is a good thesis statement for Hamlet's famous soliloquy: To be or not to be, and...

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mdgx51 | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted March 16, 2012 at 10:15 PM via web

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What is a good thesis statement for Hamlet's famous soliloquy: To be or not to be, and main points?! D;

 

I have to write a short essay (1-1.5 pages, double-spaced) and it has to be a close analysis of Hamlet's solil., paying attention to his thoughts, attitudes and feelings, and the reasons for them at this point in the play. Also to identify and explain thought patterns, style, and technique but not summarizing.

So can my thesis be simply: "In the famous soliloquy, Hamlet makes a universal notion about life and death, though in the end makes a conclusion that thinking individuals who think too much can destroy themselves."

 

Eep, I need help making a thesis and the main points! D; I'm terrible at writing essays!

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 16, 2012 at 11:15 PM (Answer #1)

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Hamlet is not a real person but a character created by William Shakespeare. Hamlet cannot be expressing his own thoughts and feelings. He is speaking Shakespeare's thoughts and feelings. Whether or not Hamlet is contemplating suicide is not important, since he doesn't do it. What is important in the soliloquy is Shakespeare's itemization of the things that make life hard to bear. Some people have to spend their lives carrying heavy loads. Even if we don't have to earn our livings by hard manual labor, we still are subject to "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune [terrible things can happen to us at any time; we can get laid off, for instance, and then get evicted because we can't pay the rent]...the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to." "That flesh is heir to" means that existence naturally entails for everybody. Then there are "the oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, the pangs of despised love [maybe you have experienced that personally?], the law's delay, the insolence of office [think about the way you have gotten treated in the Department of Motor Vehicles or the U.S. Post Office or the way some people talk to you on the phone when you're trying to get help or information], and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes ..." Shakespeare (not Hamlet) is asking whether what you get out of being alive is worth all the troubles you have to put up with, and all the troubles you can expect to put up with in the future, including sickness and old age? He concludes that the answer is no, but we stay alive because we're afraid of death. I suspect that Shakespeare may have written this soliloquy at some earlier date, put it aside, and then decided to put it into Hamlet's mouth. The generalities in the soliloquy, the observations about the realities of existence, are more important than Hamlet's personal feelings.

Sources:

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zulmira | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted March 16, 2012 at 11:17 PM (Answer #2)

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I like the beginning of your statement "In the famous soliloquy, Hamlet makes..."  my question is what do you mean by universal notion?  This speech also known as the suicide speech is his thought process over if he should live or die. (to be or not to be)  He constantly in the play over thinks things to the point of nonaction.  Rewrite you thesis to be more specific; hence, easier to support.  Focus on why he states one should die (there is evidence of this) and why you shouldn't (evidence as well)  Try this:  In Prince Hamlet's memorable solilogy he weighs universal questions about life, death and afterlife.  Something along these lines sets up your essay into paragraphs 1. Life, 2. death, 3. afterlife  this couples with an intro and conclusion should keep you away from plot summary and focus on his patterns of thought.  Best of luck.

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llf94 | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted March 18, 2012 at 6:51 AM (Answer #3)

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A Soliloquy is a dramatic convention, in which the character stands alone on stage, speaking. Originally it was a plot device, to enable a character to tell the audience what he planned to do next, for example, in the course of revenge. But the device is heightened in Shakespeare as it enables a character to reveal the inner soul to the audience without telling the other characters. It is usual that one discovers more of a character from a soliloquy than from the action of the play alone. Shakespeare uses the soliloquies in Hamlet to great effec with Hamlet state of mind, his indecision and his use of imagery.

 

Hamletstate of mind in his first soliloquy is deeply nihilistic; Shakespeare presents the world as an unneeded garden rank in nature. In the first soliloquy and the third, Hamlet is particularly nihilistic. In the first he says;


Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve into a dew!


He clearly has suicidal tendencies, which crop up again in the third soliloquy;


When he himself his quietus make
With a bare bodkin

Clearly, Hamlet is unhappy, but it may be because he has too little to do (He is briefly happy when things take his mind off his problems - e.g. when the players arrive - but even this, on reflection, leads to more soul searching in a soliloquy).

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