To be, or not to be: that Hamlet

To be, or not to be: that is the question:Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to sufferThe slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more; and by a sleep to say we endThe heart-ache and the thousand natural shocksThat flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummationDevoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;For in that sleep of death what dreams may comeWhen we have shuffled off this mortal coil,Must give us pause: there's the respectThat makes calamity of so long life;For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,The insolence of office and the spurnsThat patient merit of the unworthy takes,When he himself might his quietus makeWith a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,To grunt and sweat under a weary life,But that the dread of something after death,The undiscover'd country from whose bournNo traveller returns, puzzles the willAnd makes us rather bear those ills we haveThan fly to others that we know not of?Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;And thus the native hue of resolutionIs sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,And enterprises of great pith and momentWith this regard their currents turn awry,And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisonsBe all my sins remember'd!

Quote Analysis

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Act 3 Scene 1 lines 56-60

Possibly the most well-known Shakespeare quote is from Hamlet and is said by Hamlet himself in his famous soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 1. The prince tries to solve the dilemma between life and death that tortures him painfully.

Subsequently his words touch the problem of suicide in Christianity. Though Shakespeare couldn’t address it directly it is heavily implied that Hamlet is thinking about suicide. He is tired of life, tormented and horrified by it. Hamlet compares enduring the harshness of life by standing unarmed, harmed by slings and arrows, or find the courage to put an end to all at once? We see how deeply Hamlet is in despair: he feels so cornered and depressed that his death he sees as “taking arms”. He knows that he isn’t going to survive if he stands against everything that was put on him. Still Hamlet is afraid of death: further in his soliloquy he doubts that death is the option. Hamlet thinks about the afterlife experience, guessing if it will be similar to the deep sleep with seeing dreams, cessation of existence or, possibly, eternal damnation that awaits for those who committed suicide? The dilemma is much more dramatic, because Hamlet understands that there will be no option to undo anything if he chooses to die.

But, besides the open fear of death and Hell that is so understandable for the audience of that time, we also see how miserable Hamlet sees his life that he considers suicide - the worst sin in Christianity - as a way to escape from it.