In Shakespeare's play Hamlet, according to the title character Hamlet, what are the situations that force an individual to think of death as a possible solution?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the famous "To be, or not to be" soliloquy found in act 3, scene 1 of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the title character Hamlet names several reasons why mankind might begin to think of death or suicide as a solution, all having to do with the troubles suffered by humanity.

Early on in the speech, he asks himself if it is nobler to put an end to "a sea of troubles" by death or to remain alive and face the troubles (66). By "sea of troubles," he literally means all of life's problems, such as the problems he is facing concerning the fact that he has just learned his uncle murdered his father and he has just been commissioned by his father to revenge his father's death. That poses a major moral quandary for Hamlet due to his Protestant religion. He next speaks of sleeping to put an end to the "heartache," which for him refers to the grief he feels due to the loss of his father and the sorrow he feels about the fact his mother has just betrayed his father by marrying again so suddenly, even well before the end of the traditional one-year period of mourning (70).

Later, he asks "who would bear the whips and scorns of time," referring again to all of the tortures one must endure throughout life, including the feeling that one has been treated with "scorn," or contempt by time, or life (78). He next speaks of being rejected by love, of being treated rudely by arrogant people, of suffering the injustice of the law, of being insulted by higher officials, and of being mistreated by unworthy people as reasons for wanting death (78-83).

All of the above reasons cause physical and emotional human pain, and all can lead a person to want to seek comfort in death, to want to commit suicide.