In act 3, scene 1 of Hamlet, referring to details from his famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy, explain the reasons Hamlet gives for not ending his troubles with a "bare bodkin." Discuss also what this speech reveals about the issues Hamlet is struggling with.

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The conventional interpretation of Hamlet's third soliloquy in Shakespeare's Hamlet is that Hamlet is contemplating suicide.

In his first soliloquy in act 1, scene 2, however, Hamlet clearly acknowledges that suicide is a sin. He puts it out of his mind and doesn't mention it again until two acts...

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The conventional interpretation of Hamlet's third soliloquy in Shakespeare's Hamlet is that Hamlet is contemplating suicide.

In his first soliloquy in act 1, scene 2, however, Hamlet clearly acknowledges that suicide is a sin. He puts it out of his mind and doesn't mention it again until two acts later.

HAMLET. O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! (1.2.132-135)

In contrast to the first soliloquy, in which Hamlet directly addresses the subject of suicide, Hamlet discusses suicide in the abstract in the "To be, or not to be" soliloquy.

HAMLET. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. (3.1.64-67)

The words "in the mind" move the question of suicide from the particular to the abstract. The question of "To be, or not to be" doesn't apply solely or specifically to Hamlet, but relates to humanity in general.

Considering everything that people have to endure in their lives, Hamlet seems to think that suicide is a perfectly reasonable way to be rid of the troubles. Hamlet seems to say that anybody could kill themselves if they had a mind to do it, even with something like a "bare bodkin"—by which Hamlet might mean anything from a blunt sewing needle to a small dagger—so why don't people do it? He answers this question too:

HAMLET. ...But that the dread of something after death... (3.1.85)

That's why.

Nobody knows for sure what happens in the "undiscover'd country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns" (3.1.86-87), and nobody wants to be the first person to find out. This is particularly true if the afterlife turns out to be even worse than the life they left behind—which is exactly how hell is advertised.

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