In Hamlet, what concerns is Hamlet expressing in the sololiquy of Act III Scene I "To be, or not to be: that is the question"?I need a paraphrasing of this soliloquy about what Hamlet is feeling in...

In Hamlet, what concerns is Hamlet expressing in the sololiquy of Act III Scene I "To be, or not to be: that is the question"?

I need a paraphrasing of this soliloquy about what Hamlet is feeling in this part of the play.

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Asked on by domeeno

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This of course is perhaps one of the most famous speeches in all of the plays of Shakespeare, not just in this one. This is a very poignant soliloquy, as in it Hamlet is really discussing the value of his life and whether or not he should commit suicide. This soliloquy has been staged in so many ways, but one of the best ones for me is in the Kenneth Brannagh film version, when Hamlet performs this soliloquy in front of a two way mirror, with Claudius and Polonius watching him through the other side.

The soliloquy starts off with Hamlet debating whether to kill himself, or whether it is more noble to face the troubles of life. He wonders if sleep will give him the rest from the trials of his life that he is looking for. But then he wonders if he does die what dreams he will have, and this uncertainty of what he faces in "the undiscovered country" of death is something that makes all men fearful of death. This makes us put up with our lives and their troubles rather than exchange them for something that we don't know about. This is what stops us from acting on our principles and takes away our resolution in life.

The soliloquy is interupted at this stage by the arrival of Ophelia, but it is important to note the way that this soliloquy presents Hamlet and the real desire that he has to end his life so that he can escape the various "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," or the terrible position that he has found himself in.

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rienzi's profile pic

rienzi | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

The "To be" speech is about delay. It is not about suicide. It is a logical progression that between Hamlet's resolve to catch the conscience of the king and the playing out of the "Murder of Gonzago" where he presumably does catch the king's conscience, that Hamlet pauses to think about the consequences. His concern is not about killing himself. His concern is what happens in taking up arms against a sea of troubles. His though process is that actively fighting for his nobility puts his life in danger at the hand of someone else. Meeting life's calamity with action (not just thought) is just a series of battles until eventually one is done in by them. We see this play out in Hamlet's final soliloquy in 4.4 and ultimately at the end of the play with Laertes. The soliloquy is Hamlet thinking through what it means to be noble. Does he quietly suffer in his thoughts or does he stand up for himself and fight back though death may be the result. This is what concerns Hamlet in this speech.

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