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Analysis Of The Tone Of The “To Be Or Not To Be” Soliloquy In Hamlet

797 words - 3 pages

The soliloquy that appears in Act 3 Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is easily one of the most popular speeches in English literature. It has been referenced to in Star Trek, Calvin and Hobbes and A Nightmare on Elm Street. However, this speech was not intended to be a lighthearted reference as indicated by Hamlet’s contemplative, philosophical, and bitter tones he uses while questioning the nature of life and death in this soliloquy.
To begin with, Hamlet starts off his speech asking, “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” (Shakespeare 3.1.57-60). He wonders if he would be more noble if he took his own life and end his sorrows than if he continued to endure him. This question shows the pain and grief that Hamlet has experienced since the death of his father. According to Ophelia, later in Act 3 Scene 1, she reveals that Hamlet was once the obvious successor to the throne since he was charismatic and admired by the people. Clearly, in this part of the play, he is suicidal, and he is uncertain about many of the big decisions in his life. This extreme change in Hamlet’s behaviors makes the audience worry about Hamlet’s mental health. Is his feigned madness transforming into true insanity? However, his comparison to death and sleep suggests that Hamlet is in a state of reflection and learning. Hamlet’s analogy between death and sleep is the musings of an ordinary man who wonders what happens to a soul once its body dies. Just as no one knows what dreams they will experience when they lay in bed, no knows what they will experience when their body is finally laid in a grave.
Furthermore, Hamlet seems to be in a state of enlightenment at the end of his contemplation from lines 77 to 88. All the questions Hamlet has been asking up to this point are finally being answered. Hamlet realizes why he cannot bring himself to kill himself or Claudius; it is because of his uncertainty of the afterlife. Hamlet demonstrates this theory throughout the play including his delay in killing Claudius after he gathers enough evidence that suggests that Claudius killed King Hamlet. His overthinking about...

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