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With regard to Hamlet’s soliloquy that starts with “To be, or not to be,” state...

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bigred4 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 22, 2013 at 1:33 PM via web

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With regard to Hamlet’s soliloquy that starts with “To be, or not to be,” state the theme and summarize the content. 

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted April 22, 2013 at 4:37 PM (Answer #1)

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Hamlet's soliloquy in act three certainly brings up topics surrounding death, the afterlife, suicide and patience in long-suffering. Hamlet begins by asking himself the famous rhetorical question "To be, or not to be," which seems to translate as whether or not existing in life is really worth it or not. This question seems to be a universal one in which everyone must consider at some point during life. After this question, Hamlet seems to list his pros and cons for living and dying. First, should a person face life by confronting every battle that presents itself, or sit peacefully and weather "a sea of troubles" and "heartache" (III.i.66 & 70). Then, Hamlet seems to question whether or not living through such trials and tribulations are worth the effort because in death one can sleep, avoid responsibilities, and even dream. Life seems only to offer 

". . . whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of disprized love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,. . .

To grunt and sweat under a weary life" (III.i.77-81 & 84).

Hamlet was probably a happy young prince before suddenly facing adult issues of losing a father, betrayal, and murder. He seems to be tossed into the boxing ring of adulthood without any notice or preparation and he doesn't know what to do. As with many people who are shocked by traumatic events, Hamlet wonders if just killing himself wouldn't be better than facing the horrible troubles that face him. At this point in the play, Hamlet decides not to decide and thereby makes the decision at least not to kill himself.

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