Perhaps the most famous soliloquy in literature, these words reflect the state of desperation in which Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, finds himself as he contemplates suicide. His father, the King, has died. His mother, the Queen, has remarried within a month of the King's passing, an act which has disturbed young Hamlet in and of it. To make it worse, she has married the King's brother, Hamlet's uncle, who is now the King of Denmark. As Hamlet's despair deepens, he learns through the appearance of an apparition of his dead father; that the old King was murdered by the new King. Hamlet's growing awareness of the betrayal of his mother and evil of Claudius leads to a deepening depression and madness. This soliloquy contains the famous words "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all", hinting that the "dread of something after death"-purgatory, hell, perhaps-is what keeps Hamlet alive to avenge his father.
Many people incorrectly interpret those famous words of Hamlet's, not knowing the true meaning or background behind his speech. In his soliloquy, Hamlet contemplates whether or not he should take it upon himself to act accordingly to his uncle's/step-father's crime against his own father. However, later on in the play, Hamlet realizes Fortinbras' resolve and his quest for victory. By witnessing Fortinbras and his actions, Hamlet comes to realize that he has no inner struggle and sees the actions that he must take in order to bring inner peace to him and avenge his father's murder.
He is grappling with the difficulty of taking action against Claudius and the fact that he has not been able to revenge his father's murder yet. Hamlet's introspective commentary is interrupted when he sees Ophelia.
In his most famous soliloquy, Hamlet ponders whether he should take action against his "sea of troubles" and seek revenge for his father's death or live with the pain of his father's murder. Hamlet's weakness is later illustrated when he passes up the opportunity to kill Claudius by rationalizing that he has made peace with God, therefore sending him to Heaven if he were to be slain. In addition to his proposal of vengeance, he also contemplates whether it is better to stay alive or commit suicide. If he were to sleep, he feels that all his troubles would vanish, and this would not be such a bad thing. However, he says that if he were to sleep, he might have disturbing dreams while in slumber which would be wholly undesirable. Hamlet knows that what he wishes to do to his uncle is sinful and wrong, but it is this train of thought that leaves him in a state of anxiety. This soliloquy portrays Hamlet as a sort of coward because he can not act upon his own emotions and desires. In order to escape his heartache, he cowardly thinks about killing himself.
Hamlet's state of mind has gone through a metamorphosis. Hamlet knows how much of a coward he has been comparing himself to Fortinbras. He admires Fortinbras for the mere fact...