What does Hamlet's fourth soliloquy really mean? Act III scene 1 lines 56–89, "To be, or not to be."

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malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm assuming you mean Act IV, scene iv, line 33, that begins with "How all occasions do inform against me". If that is the case, this is when Hamlet finally decides to be a man of action rather than of thought. He is ashamed of his inability thus far to seek vengeance upon his uncle/stepfather, Claudius, and has determined that no matter the outcome, he will go back to Denmark (he's on a ship in this scene) and kill Claudius.

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kudev | Student

It is still not clear if the Ghost's information is real, is true, much as it fits his own'take' on the situation, just as it is questionable if the Ghost is 'real. He requires more proof, and since the conclusion he believes is true would be treasonous to Claudius, he is very wary of putting it out there, so he decides to test his theory, albeit now that it has been galvanized by the Ghost's coroborration, it is still not clearly, objectively true, and he knows that to pursue the revenge he would like might mean his own death, or further, the death of other innocents (mother, Ophelia, courtiers,unpredictable( as he still cannot tell how complicitous the rest of the court is in the murder of his father. Certainly, Polonius, Ophelia's father seems hand-in-glove with Claudius, and what of Gertrude? Who has benefitted from old Hamlet's death? They are all suspect to young Hamlet.?. He is highly aware that he is the deposed Prince, his safe position has been stolen by Claudus, and he requires a court consensus before he rightfully takes any action against Claudius, happy though it wouldmake him to do so. He is also sorry, angry at his mother's ignorant re-marriage, blithely unconcious of the consequences of what she did.

As he sees Ophelia enter, he hopes she will remember all his sins, and so distance herself emotionally from him, as he knows he must get her to separate, so he can take the dangerous actions which lay somewhere before him.

arjun | Student

His fourth soliloquy is considered most philosophical and used as examples by the scholars. He is shown on the horn of dilemma and thinks whether he should tolerate it or fight against the tyranny of life. His acute pain, caused by obsession, pushes him to committing suicide. He prefers escaping from reality. As he says:
To be, 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.

Such dejection is interim .when he comes to round, he condemns it cowardice and uplifts himself to the spell of suicide. He opposes death and imagines whether death is a deep sleep, free from troubles with whom the body is attached, or not. He jumps to tantamount that death is no doubt a sleep but there are thousands dreadful visions usually disturb and shock such sleep.
He hesitates to commit suicide because it is not way of getting rid of the troubles of life, but of implicating or trapping himself into more torturous troubles. If it had not been, it would have been the best remedy of all troubles given by life in the world.
As he says:
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o`er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises ……..of act in.
So it is conscience that makes the effected too weak to commit suicide. It robs our moral courage and irresolute and in consequence we become pale through anxiety.

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