What does Hamlet believe he is capable at the end of his soliloquy "to be or not to be"? What are his fears? Compare his emotions to what he says.

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hamlet begins this soliloquy with a question about whether or not he should kill himself. However, by the end of the speech he does not believe he is capable of this action.  At first, he longs for death. He says:

"To die, to sleep—

No more—and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. 'tis a consummation(70)

Devoutly to be wish'd.

However, as the speech continues, he questions the consequences of self-destruction because he does not know why lies beyond death and therefore fears it. He calls death:


"The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns


Hamlet concludes that, even though he would like to die and rid himself of both his sadness and the burden of revenge for his father's death, he cannot kill himself because the consequence of that act might be worse than living in this world. Instead, he must:


..."rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of"


He is saddened by the idea that he cannot kill himself, and just before Ophelia arrives, he notes that


".. conscience does make cowards of us all"


and that because of his fear of death and its consequences he has lost the strength to kill himself which he calls


"the name of action".


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