My short essay is about Hamlet's soliloquy: To be or not to be, and I'm confused about my points-- mainly my 3rd point. Can someone look it over?My thesis for my short essay about Hamlet's...

My short essay is about Hamlet's soliloquy: To be or not to be, and I'm confused about my points-- mainly my 3rd point. Can someone look it over?

My thesis for my short essay about Hamlet's soliloquy 'To be or not to be' is: "Ultimately, Hamlet’s soliloquy shows his inner conflict between his desire to ‘not be,’ his fear of the afterlife, and his duty to avenge his father’s death." My first point is his conflict with his conscience; my second point is the fact that Hamlet's duty to kill his father causes conflicts with the people he loves,  and the third point is that Hamlet is confused and procrastinating. But the last point doesn't seem to connect with my thesis.



Expert Answers
susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In your approach to Hamlet's soliloquy, you are quite on point about Hamlet's motivation for having such thoughts.  He does think of the afterlife, and he feels it his duty to defend his father's death. Your thesis is certainly viable.  But some of the points you have outlined are not supported by the "To be or not to be" soliloquy itself.  They must be supported by looking outside the speech.  Hamlet's soliloquy is  general in nature.  He speaks for all individuals, not just himself.  He  wonders why so many people cling to life, when they can end their suffering with suicide.

In this speech, though, we do learn that Hamlet believes in and fears the afterlife, as he says all men do.  We learn that he views life as "a calamity," one full of suffering and pain.  And we learn that he believes that our consciences make us cowardly because our consciences prevent us from taking "arms against a sea of troubles" and committing suicide.

Other ideas that might be gleaned from this speech is Hamlet's thoughtful, philosophical, and logical nature.  The speech is posited as philosophical argument and developed as such.  We also sense Hamlet's suffering. Before this soliloquy he had developed a plan to prove Claudius' guilt, but before he can enact this plan, he delivers this speech about suicide.  He is probably very concerned that he will in fact prove Claudius' guilt and have to avenge his father's death, when he would rather not.  Lastly, we can see that Hamlet has somewhat matured.  Unlike his earlier soliloquies--especially his first--when he pondered his own suicide, this particular suicide is a more universal contemplation.  Hamlet is thinking about suicide in general, not truly his own.


khaulasaadi | Student

You should probably change the first two points slightly, in order to connect all the three points.

In my opinion, the points should be:

1) Hamlet procastinates the idea of revenge due to his religious belief and his lack of trust in the ghost.

2) Hamlet procastinates the idea of death- he knows that life is painful but to take it away is a painful process as well. It is, basically the fear of the unknown which stops Hamlet from commiting suicide.

3) Finally, if you cover something with too much of a thought process then the beauty of it is lost. (use the last three lines of the soliloquy as a reference).

rienzi | Student


Hamlet is not pondering suicide he is pondering action. Having thought through his plan to catch the conscience of the king, Hamlet is faced with the consequences of his action to come. He can idly suffer at the hands of fortune or he take charge of his own destiny. Hamlet sets up quite a quandry: quietly suffering in one's own cowardice or actively battling one's ocean of troubles. As Harold Jenkins in the Arden Hamlet points out, taking arms against a sea of troubles does not end one's troubles rather they ultimately end you.

Hamlet in this speech is speaking in the third person and generalizing the dilemma for all persons similarly situated. But what he is saying in light of his own situation is that if he goes through with his plan to catch the king, he places his own life on the line. This is point is specifically expressed in his 4.4 soliloquy as he observes another prince do precisely that. It's no coincidence that as Hamlet departs for England he is in the same boat, so to speak, as Prince Fortinbras because Claudius intends to take Hamlet's life.

Hamlet isn't worrying about taking his own life, he is worrying about someone or something else taking his life in the active engagement of life's troubles. Turning resolution into action has consequences that Hamlet is not sure he is prepared to meet.

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