Horatio tells his friend, Hamlet, that if he has any misgivings about the duel with Laertes, he should listen to them, and Horatio offers to tell the crowd that Hamlet is feeling ill. However, Hamlet will not hear of it. He says that he sets no store by...
Horatio tells his friend, Hamlet, that if he has any misgivings about the duel with Laertes, he should listen to them, and Horatio offers to tell the crowd that Hamlet is feeling ill. However, Hamlet will not hear of it. He says that he sets no store by superstition. Further, he continues,
There's a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis
not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it
be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all.
Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is 't to
leave betimes? Let be. (5.2.205-210)
In other words, Hamlet now thinks that God is in control of everything, even something as small as the death of a sparrow. He says that if death is supposed to come now, then it will. If death is supposed to happen later, then it won't happen now. However, the important thing is to be ready for it. None of us knows anything about what we leave behind us when we die, so what does it mean to die early? We must make peace with it.
This is a significant departure from the depressed young man who said,
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? (3.1.57-61)
Earlier, Hamlet had considered ending his own life, asking whether or not it's better to be alive or dead. He wondered if it was better to put up with all the terrible things life throws at us or to fight, escaping by choosing one's own death. He thinks of dying as a kind of sleep, a sleep that allows us to get away from all our pain and heartache. It seems that Hamlet used to think that he was completely in control of his life and his death, that he could simply choose to end it whenever he wanted. By the time he speaks with Horatio toward the play's end, it seems that Hamlet has entrusted his life to a higher power: death is no longer singular or all about him, but he now has a sense that his life and death are part of a plan, and both seem more purposeful as a result.