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Moral Doubt In Hamlet's Soliloquy To Be Or Not To Be...

540 words - 2 pages

The Moral Question in Hamlet's Soliloquy - To be or not to be...

"The major question in 'To be or not to be' cannot be suicide. If it were, as many have noted, it would be dramatically irrelevant. Hamlet is no longer sunk in the depths of melancholy, as he was in his first soliloquy. He has been roused to action and has just discovered how to test the Ghost's words. When we last saw him, only five minutes before, he was anticipating the night's performance, and in only a few moments we shall see him eagerly instructing the players and excitedly telling Horatio of his plan. To have him enter at this point debating whether or not to kill himself would be completely inconsistent with both the character and the movement of the plot. The metaphors all suggest that Hamlet's choice is between suffering the ills of this world and taking resolute action against them, not between enduring evil and evading it.

A further objection to the suicide theory, one that may be even more significant in its implications, is the form of the question Hamlet puts to himself. He states his dilemma as "to be or not to be"- not as "to live or not to live." the issue, as he sees it is not between mere temporal existence and non-existence, but between "being" and "non-being." In other words, he is struggling with a metaphysical issue: not the narrow personal question of whether he, an individual man, should kill himself, but the wider philosophical question of man's essence.

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