How does the famous "To be or Not to be" speech (act 3, sc 1) add to the understanding of Hamlet and his search for the purpose?

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bmadnick eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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These famous words occur just before Hamlet confronts Ophelia. He is debating with himself over what he should do. Should he go through with his plan to avenge his father's death, or should he just give up and kill himself? He then wonders of there is an after-life and what it is like. He contemplates whether he should suffer now or suffer later.

What does this tell us about Hamlet? He is a man of thought and words, not actions. He's philosophical about life and death. He spends time analyzing his situation and himself rather than acting right away. Hamlet also suffers from depression, so when he is asked by the Ghost to act, he really isn't prepared...

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