Understanding Hamlet's Famous Speech in Shakespeare's Hamlet
Hamlet's classsic "To be or not to be..."(Hamlet, prince of Denmark, 3.1.57) speech really shows who he is. Obviously Hamlet is horribly depressed. We have already seen several examples of this, but this speech gives us a clear picture of his sadness. More importantly however, his speech shows his weakness and indecisiveness. Hamlet is consistently melancholy, but he never really acts on it; he just kind of wallows around, full of self-pity and loathing. Finally, it gives us Hamlet's reason for not committing suicide. Throughout the play he seems to wish for death and here we find out why he doesn't bring it on himself. This also gives us a window into his personality. This speech provides us with a clear understanding of Hamlet and his motivations.
Hamlet is seriously in need of some Prozac. He says in this speech, flat out: "To die, to sleep-..'Tis a consumation devoutly to be wished."(3.1.69-72). He feels that his troubles and his heartache are to to much to deal with. While this speech is not the first time he has mentioned suicide, it does give the clearest picture of just how far gone he is. He seems to be weary of life, as he consistently says "to sleep" while refering to death. As though he only wishes to rest and forget his troubled soul. We see here for the first time why he wants to die. It is not that he feels there is too much pain or strife in life, but that he is tired with dealing with it and exausted by his efforts. Hamlet says in this speech, in as plain of language as he can, that he is depressed and wants to die. But, he has said that before. This speech gives us our first clear indication as to his reason for craving death.
More interestingly, Hamlet shows here his fundamental cowardice and fear. He has been going on for the whole play about how terrible his life is and how much pain and suffering he has had to endure, and he starts out the speech on this note. This is the first indication of his weakness. Hamlet it seems would rather bemoan his troubles than solve them. He goes on and on...