How do I write a thesis statement for this?Suicide is an important theme in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Discuss how the play treats the idea of suicide morally, religiously and aesthetically.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In considering a thesis for the theme of suicide, consider these ideas:

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the idea of suicide comes to Hamlet  and Ophelia as an escape from dealing with their quandaries of being immersed in a world of corruption and disillusioning experiences.  

His fourth soliloquy, the famous "to be, or not to be" meditation from Act III reflects this maelstom of emotions that Hamlet experiences.  Indeed, Hamlet cannot control all his emotions as he wants revenge for his father, but knows that regicide is a serious crime; he is disgusted with his mother's "incestuous behavior," yet he does love her; and he is incensed by the corruption of the courtiers, such as Polonius, but is gravely disappointed in his old friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

In his depression over his dilemma and his anger at the corruption of the court, Hamlet lashes out at Ophelia; her insanity begins after this brutality of Hamlet and manipulation by Polonius, who has her spy upon Hamlet.  Having lost faith in both, Ophelia, then, commits suicide.  Thus, her suicide becomes the metaphor [the aesthetic treatment] for Hamlet's detection of the corruption that is so immoral that it can destroy an innocent and beauty such as Ophelia. [morality]

devval23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, I think the suicide theme, while relevant, is also a product of modern interpretations of Shakespeare's revenge tragedy. Maybe you could treat suicide as figurative, not literal, by focusing on  Hamlet's language of despair-a sin in itself- which hints and suggests at deliberate self-killing and eventually, kingdom-killing. A thesis statment might read, "The language of despair in Hamlet emphasizes Hamlet's inability to reconcile conflicting notions of justice, as he realizes he is not control of his individual fate or that of the kingdom's...." and then elaborate with examples of how this is played out through soliloquies-the aesthetic device that reveals the inner workings of HIS mind-morals, religion, and while he does not commit suicide, he does go forth deliberately, knowing he might die, but he does so with martyrdom, and his final actions do ironically lead others to accidentally commit suicide.

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