What does Hamlet think about suicide? Include textual support.

While Hamlet seriously contemplates suicide after his father's death and his mother's marriage to his uncle, he does not go through with the act, because God has decreed against it. Hamlet it frightened of the “undiscover'd country” after death, and his conscience will not allow him to go through with the act.

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Hamlet is in a rough spot all the way around. His father is dead. His uncle Claudius has assumed the kingship of Denmark and married Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, only a short time into her widowhood. Hamlet is both appalled and suspicious. The funeral was hardly over when the marriage feast began. With “wicked speed” his mother has given in to a relationship that appears incestuous to Hamlet, and on top of it, Claudius and Gertrude want Hamlet to stop grieving for his father and be happy for them. He is supposed to smile and be cheerful. The royal couple does not even want Hamlet to return to school but rather to remain at the Danish court.

Indeed, Hamlet's entire life seems to be collapsing around him, and he gives serious thought to ending that life. He wishes that his flesh would simply melt and become dew. The whole world is stale and flat, unprofitable and useless. It is like an “unweeded garden,” with nasty things growing in it. Hamlet would much rather leave that world, but he realizes that God has decreed against suicide. Hamlet's Christian faith teaches him that suicide is a sin that can merit eternal damnation, and he is not willing to risk that by taking his own life.

Yet Hamlet cannot entirely let go of the urge to suicide. After he discovers that his father has actually been murdered by Claudius, Hamlet is more distraught than ever. While desiring revenge, he also wants to end “the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks / That flesh is heir to.” He wishes for a “consummation,” that he may obtain the “sleep of death” and shuffle of “this mortal coil.” He might end his life and all its trials quickly with an unsheathed knife. He might “take arms against a sea of troubles” and end them all in an instant. Yet he does not, for Hamlet dreads what would happen after death. There is an “undiscover'd country” there, and no one ever returns from it. He is frightened of that unknown, again especially since God has commanded people not to take their own lives. Hamlet's conscience may make a “coward” of him, but he follows it and does not commit suicide.

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Hamlet is portrayed as a deeply troubled, disturbed young man who is struggling to cope with the sudden death of his father and his mother's marriage to his unscrupulous uncle Claudius. Towards the end of act 1, scene 2, Hamlet offers a moving soliloquy where he laments his terrible situation and contemplates committing suicide. He says,

Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God, God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't, ah fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. ... (Shakespeare, 1.2.12

Hamlet clearly views suicide as a possible option to put an end to his emotional anguish. Hamlet desires to commit suicide but does not want to damn his soul. According to Hamlet's Christian theology, his soul would go to hell if he committed suicide: this seems to be the only thing preventing him from taking his own life. Hamlet laments the fact that God has "fixed His canon 'gainst self-slaughter," which is why he will not take his own life. Later in the play, Hamlet once again contemplates suicide during his famous soliloquy in act 3, scene 1. Hamlet says,

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 heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep. (Shakespeare, 3.1.57-65)

Hamlet is questioning whether it is nobler to remain alive and suffer the troubles of life or to commit suicide and end his struggles once and for all. Hamlet believes that he can only find solace and peace in death, which he compares to sleep. Hamlet continues to contemplate suicide by analyzing the nature of death and acknowledging that the fear of the unknown is what prevents people from ending their lives. Hamlet elaborates on death by saying,

The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler 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... (Shakespeare, 3.1.80-84)

Hamlet certainly entertains the idea of committing suicide but is reluctant to follow through with taking his life because he is afraid of what lies beyond the physical realm. Hamlet's Christian theology leads him to view suicide as a mortal sin, and his fear of the unknown also contributes to his trepidation. Essentially, Hamlet desires to take his life but fears the outcome. Hamlet acknowledges that suicide is a reasonable option to solve his problems but believes that taking his life would result in an eternity in hell, which is why he refrains from committing suicide.

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Suicide comes up at other points in the play (Act 1, Act 4, Act 5). The first mention is in his soliloquy in Act 1, in which he notes that God forbids suicide. At that point, Hamlet is so sad he wishes God had not made such a rule.

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Hamlet's thoughts about suicide are all contained in his famous soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1, beginning with the words "To be, or not to be: that is the question." He does not seem to have any moral or religious objections to suicide. He tells himself that "Tis a consummation / Devoutly to be wished." (It is significant that he uses the word "devoutly," since this word has religious connotations.) Not only does he seem to be contemplating suicide, but, characteristically, he thinks about the matter in general terms as it applies to humanity as a whole. He speculates quite reasonably that a great many people would kill themselves "but that the dread of something after death" frightens them from doing what is in everyone's power to do. This soliloquy is famous because so many people have had similar thoughts and similar fears--at least at certain times. Death seems like an easy way to escape life's problems, except that nobody can know beforehand what death is actually like. It is an "undiscovered country from which no traveler returns" to describe it to the living. Hamlet's own father tells him in Act 1, Scene 5, that he is forbidden "To tell the secrets of my prison-house" but suggests that death is so horrible that a live person like Hamlet could not bear to hear the truth about it. Hamlet seems to have no other objection to suicide.

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