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What is Hamlet referring to when he speaks of ending “a sea of troubles”?

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carachambers | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted May 23, 2012 at 9:20 PM via web

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What is Hamlet referring to when he speaks of ending “a sea of troubles”?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 23, 2012 at 11:28 PM (Answer #1)

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This quotation is from Hamlet's famous "to be or not to be" soliloquy in Act III, Scene 1. By a "sea of troubles," Hamlet means life's many struggles. Hamlet is weighing the merits of life, which is, he argues, inherently full of travails and evils, against that of death, which would bring an end to these troubles:

Whether 'tis 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.

Is it better to endure the hardships of life, miserable as it may be, or "to take arms" against these troubles? By "take arms," Hamlet seems, in context, to mean committing suicide, and though he does not seem to be contemplating the actual act of killing himself at this point in the play, he is clearly disturbed, and is pondering whether life is worth living.  

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