In Hamlet's soliloquy "To be or not to be," what are Hamlet's feelings?

In the "to be or not to be" soliloquy, Hamlet expresses a desire to commit suicide, as well as feelings that life is a torment. He shows that he is paralyzed by indecision, whether it be to kill himself or avenge his father's death. He both longs for the oblivion death offers and fears that there is an afterlife in which he will be punished. He laments his overall inability to take action.

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Hamlet's feelings in his most famous soliloquy are despairing, and his despair is deeper than is often acknowledged, despite the detail in which this speech is generally studied. To appreciate the nihilistic nature of Hamlet 's feelings, it is worth considering a hypothetical character who is considering suicide and...

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Hamlet's feelings in his most famous soliloquy are despairing, and his despair is deeper than is often acknowledged, despite the detail in which this speech is generally studied. To appreciate the nihilistic nature of Hamlet's feelings, it is worth considering a hypothetical character who is considering suicide and debating whether to kill himself. One might expect this internal debate to consist of the pros and cons of life, with the character saying, for instance, that his life is painful and miserable but that it might get better, and there are still some aspects of life he enjoys and thinks valuable.

This hypothetical character might end up killing himself, but his despair cannot be as deep as Hamlet's. Hamlet's position is not that life is a mixture of good and bad but that life is altogether bad, and the only reason not to kill oneself is the possibility that death might be even worse. Anyone who has a realistic view of life, he asserts, would certainly commit suicide:

But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of.

Hamlet's continued existence after this soliloquy, therefore, is not a powerful triumph of the life force over death. It is passive and negative, based on the fear that such a bitter and unjust world is not likely to be the precursor of anything better after death.

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When Hamlet pronounces his famous soliloquy in act 3, scene 1, of the play that bears his name, he is at the point of despair. His father is dead. His mother has married his uncle, who has assumed his dead brother's throne, and all within a couple of months. What's more, Hamlet has spoken with the Ghost of his father, who told him that his death was not natural but rather murder, and his own brother, the new king, is the culprit.

Needless to say, Hamlet is overwhelmed by all this. His grief for his father may have been enough to lead this sensitive young man into a hopeless depression, but with everything else piled on top, Hamlet is not even sure he wants to live.

This, indeed, is what Hamlet contemplates in the soliloquy. He somewhat angrily questions whether he should continue to be alive, whether he should continue to suffer the intolerable “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” or whether he should pick up his dagger and end it all. Part of him wants to end this “heart-ache,” for he is in great pain from his sorrow. He wishes he could just go to sleep, the sleep of death, and end all the agony.

Yet Hamlet is also afraid. He does not know for sure what lies beyond death, what would be waiting for him if he “shuffled off this mortal coil,” especially by his own hand. God has forbidden suicide, and Hamlet fears to break that command, no matter how tempting the prospect of escape may be. He is not sure what he will be escaping to. It is an “undiscover'd country,” and this stays his hand.

Indeed, Hamlet's puzzlement over this moral difficulty makes him indecisive. He asks many questions in his soliloquy, yet he never finds solid answers to them. For the moment, he remains alive, held back from self-destructive action by his conscience and by the arrival of Ophelia.

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In the "to be or not to be" soliloquy, Hamlet continues to have the suicidal ideation that has been plaguing him since his father's death and has only become worse since his encounter with the ghost. Hamlet asks why anyone would stay alivenwhen the oblivion, sleep, and "dreams" that come with death seem so much easier and more peaceful. But, he says, therein lies the problem: how do we know that death will bring peaceful oblivion? He notes that people put up with the many torments of life out of fear of the alternative:
the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere'd country.
We fear what might happen to us after death. Thus "conscience doth make cowards of us all." In other words, we worry that what he have done wrong in this life will be punished in the next.
Hamlet ends the soliloquy by going back to what has been troubling him: his inability to act. As with avenging his father's death, he lacks the resolution to commit suicide, because in both cases, he lacks certainty: is there an afterlife, or is death simply a peaceful sleep? Did Claudius kill his father, or was the Ghost a trick of Satan's meant to lure him into killing an innocent man? By thinking so much, he loses the "name of action."
In the soliloquy, Hamlet shows that he perceives life as a struggle, full of "heartache" and the "whips and scorn of time," and that he is paralyzed, unable to act.
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The soliloquy “To be, or not to be: that is the question” appears in Act 3 Scene 1 in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It is, perhaps, one of the best-known soliloquies by Hamlet in the play, which generates profound literary interest even today. Hamlet is feeling deep pain and sorrow because of his father’s death. It seems that he is unable to accept this separation. He doesn’t want to live. Contemplating suicide, he questions himself philosophically if it is justified to live with so much pain and agony or if ending his own life is the best possible option. So this soliloquy presents to the audience Hamlet’s dilemma of should he live or should he just die. In the next few lines of the soliloquy, he considers the fact that since suicide is a sin, it is not a noble thought. Such an unrighteous act will lead to eternal damnation. So, of course, Hamlet doesn’t commit suicide. 

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