To be, or not to be... Act3, Sc1Act 3, Sc 1, Approx L56 (edition?) In this soliloquy, do you believe Hamlet is contemplating suicide, or merely curious about death and wondering about it? What is...

To be, or not to be... Act3, Sc1

Act 3, Sc 1, Approx L56 (edition?)

In this soliloquy, do you believe Hamlet is contemplating suicide, or merely curious about death and wondering about it?

What is your take/opinion/reading of this soliloquy?

3 Answers | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In his famous soliloquy, of Act III, Scene 1 of "Hamlet," the Prince of Denamark examines the quintessential question of what is life and of what value life is.  In fact, he has debated several existential questions through three previous soliloquies. 

Having realized that his mother has lustfully taken a new husband, and one who is not only the brother of her formal husband, but the very assassin himself, and despite the fact that the ghost of his father has encouraged Hamlet to avenge his death, Hamlet debates the moral question of regicide and, then, turns his anguish philosophically inward.  What is the point of living in a world in which there seems to be no values?  Would not the sleep of death  be a surcease from this agony?  Hamlet contemplates what comes in the "dreams" that may arise from this sleep, namely the condemnation of one's soul for having committed suicide:

There's the respect/That makes calamity of so long life;/For who would beat the whips and scorns of time,/Th' oppresor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,....But that the dread of something after death....Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,....(III,i,68-84)

It is this cowardice of conscience which Hamlet, who has engaged in self-debate over moral beauty, his lack of interest in the affairs of state, and his own melancholy, finally overcomes in the graveyard scene in which he authoritatively announces that he is "Hamlet the Dane." Overcoming his depression which has kept him from acting decisively, Hamlet finally slays Laertes who has conspired with Claudius. Thus, with this action, Hamlet answers his question of whether

'tis nobler in the mind to suffer/The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,/Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.

Action becomes the man; action is the answer.  King Hamlet's death must be avenged.

amberangel's profile pic

amberangel | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted on

I expected more of a personal response, but thanks for the input anyway.

elfgirl's profile pic

elfgirl | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
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? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd 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?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action

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