Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Hamlet book cover
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Hamlet's final words are, "The rest is silence." What does he mean by this? Is there more than one meaning? And how does it relate to his thoughts in the 'To be or not to be' monologue?

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shakespeareguru eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think you could take the connection between "The rest is silence" and the "To Be" soliloquy a bit further, expanding on the idea that we don't know what lies beyond death being the key connect.

From the line quoted above (line 60) to pretty much the end of the speech, Hamlet first goes through all the reasons that death is preferable to life, all the ways in which life is a drag, and then he says that it is this unknown of death that keeps us from taking our own lives:

But that the dread of something after death

The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn

No traveler returns.

So Hamlet is telling Horatio (who will tell not only Fortinbras , but the world -- "And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain/To tell my story".) that there is nothing more that can be said.  That all the questions that he has asked about life and death and meaning in the play cannot,...

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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frizzyperm | Student

The rest is silence. I have always taken this to have two meanings. The 1st is the obvious one, now Hamlet dies; he will speak no more. Hamlet's only contribution from now on will be silence.

But 'rest' can mean 'sleep'. As Hamlet slips into death, can he see that there is nothing there? Can he feel himself dissolving into nothing? There is nothing after death, it is empty.

I think it relates to the 'to be or not to be' speech very closely and all that discussion of sleep. I think it is supposed to be the answer to Hamlet's many musings on death.

"For in that sleep of death what dreams may come?"

None. The rest is silence.