What does Hamlet suggest might happen after we go to "sleep" in Hamlet?  

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hamlet fears the nightmares that might plague a person in the sleep of death. 

Hamlet is having a hard time processing his father’s death.  He even had a visit from his father from beyond the grave, where King Hamlet spoke to him as a ghost, explaining to him that he was murdered and that he wanted Hamlet to avenge his death by killing his murderer—the current King Claudius. 

Hamlet ponders life and death in his famous soliloquy, where he asks himself about the meaning of death.  Part of his conversation with himself is a comparison of death and sleep.  Hamlet says, if death is an eternal sleep, what would happen when we dream? 

To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come … (Act 3, Scene 1) 

When Hamlet says “there’s the rub,” he means that the problem with dying is that the afterlife may not be peaceful.  While living itself involves pain, death is a great unknown.  You do not know what will happen to you after you die, and it may not be the release you expect.  If you dream, will it be a constant parade of bad dreams? 

As Hamlet wrestles with the reality of his father’s death and his uncle’s part in it, he is depressed and worried.  His father’s death would certainly lead him to question his actions.  As difficult as life can be, death is the great unknown.  

… who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of? … (Act 3, Scene 1)

While is Hamlet playing crazy, this speech actually demonstrates that he is not.  He fully has his wits about him while he is surrounded by death.  Hamlet knows that he is risking his life with his enterprise, but it is worth it because he does it for his father.

 

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Hamlet

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