In Shakespeare's Hamlet, can it be argued that there is deeper meaning in Hamlet's soliloquy besides the obvious inner conflict he is having about killing himself? I am trying to write a 4-page...

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, can it be argued that there is deeper meaning in Hamlet's soliloquy besides the obvious inner conflict he is having about killing himself? I am trying to write a 4-page paper arguing that it could, in fact, have other meanings in this speech.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Hamlet seems to be thinking about the meaning of life itself. He may or may not be contemplating suicide, but he also speculates about other people's reasons for remaining alive when their lives are a burden. He would never have to "bear fardels to grunt and sweat under a weary life," but he thinks about the hard lives of the people who exist by such heavy labor. He thinks about some of the slings and arrows which most of us have personally experienced, such as

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin.

Hamlet's encounter with the ghost of his father has started him thinking about death. In this famous soliloquy he wonders about what death is actually like. Is it nothing but sleep? That sounds all right because we go to sleep every night. But is there something after death? We won't find that out until we die ourselves and travel to "the undiscovered country from whose bourn / No traveller returns."

The fact that Hamlet has actually talked to someone who has apparently returned from that undiscovered country, his own father, suggests that Shakespeare may have written this soliloquy at some time earlier than when he was working on Hamlet and that he saved it until he could find an appropriate place to put it into the mouth of one of his characters. There are many speeches and sololiquies in Shakespeare's works that seem as if they may have been written independently and then put aside "in the bottom drawer," so to speak, until it occurred to the poet that something he had written earlier might be used in a play he was working on at present. (An example might be Jacques' famous speech beginning with "All the world's a stage" in As You Like It.) In giving Hamlet this "To be or not to be" soliloquy, Shakespeare may be inadvertently suggesting that his hero is thinking of committing suicide when that is not really the case at all.

Yes, it certainly can be argued that there is a deeper meaning in Hamlet's soliloquy.

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