What are the personal grievances Hamlet expresses in his "to be or not to be" speech?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The "to be or not to be" soliloquy is a general question about whether it is better to live or die. Hamlet doesn't mention any specific personal grievances except "slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes". This seems to be a reference to Hamlet's encounter with the ghost and the subsequent discovery that his father was killed by his uncle. At this point in the play, however, Hamlet has no definite proof that the ghost is telling him the truth. He is left with trying to figure out what happened and what to do about it. He struggles with the idea that it might be better to just end it all than to continue to suffer. He mentions general grievances like oppression, hatred, rejected love, and justice delayed. These may be things Hamlet thinks he has suffered or will suffer in the future, but they are not specific events at this point in the play. However, they do foreshadow events that are about to happen, indicating Hamlet knows the battles and obstacles he is about to face.

brandih eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote is also disussed in the eNotes free Shakespeare Quotes section.

frizzyperm | Student

That life is short, brutal, unfair and constantly painful. That you get old. That society is utterly corrupt and hypocritical. That love goes unrewarded. That good is not rewarded but evil is.

Basically that life is not worth living and the only thing stopping anybody from killing themselves is the fear that it might get worse after you're dead.

Have a nice day! :-)


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