The definition of Shakespeare’s to be or not to be has taken diverse course, each with historical, textual, and otherwise based. In essence, Hamlet’s soliloquy questions the morality of life over death, but most of the speech emphasize the topic of death. Hamlet’ is motivated to live and realize his revenge despite the circumstances.
“To be or not to be” is among the most famous English canons. However, the context it has been used goes past Hamlet. The metaphysical question does not pose the question of living like this or killing oneself, instead he asks “to be or not to be.” Hamlets wording gives interpreters freedom to come up with diverse interpretations. He adopt the most vital English verbs, there cannot be English communication without the verb “be” and the indefinite ‘to be.” He does use any specific noun or pronoun, and or provide the simplest English counterargument. He completes the verb with the prefix “not.” Hamlet attaches no one, not even himself to the problems. He leaves everything hanging. The “to be” is unopposed to anything. He does not oppose it to death, non-existence, or suicide. It is just the Shakespeare grammatical countering. The author avoided any stylistic form in his writing.
It is important for a reader to consider the first Hamlet words, even before engaging the soliloquy itself. In his first Act, the character curses God for immortalizing suicide. He says, “that this too solid flesh would melt, / Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew! / Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d / His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!” (I.ii.129-132). These lines introduces a reader to the thoughts disturbing Hamlet, he is considering to end is life or to live it. However, Hamlet recognizes that suicide is immoral; he is worried that he can face tougher punishments in the afterlife that what he presently experiences. The soliloquy is coined from the disturbing thoughts, thoughts of death that Hamlet was going through. Hamlet’s question “To be, or not to be: that is the question: / Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles” (III.i.59-61), definitely shows that he is thinking of death. He adopts rational and logical approach to his dilemma, but cannot find a straight answer; this is because life after death is quite uncertain. The narrator wonders of his death and thinks of it as a deep sleep. The aspect is quite easy and acceptable, but he is disturbed with what can come out of the sleep. He is awoken in in his what sounds as unconscious mind, or a dream and ask, “To sleep: perchance to dream:—ay there’s the rub; / For in that sleep of death what dreams may come” (III.i.68-69). Hamlet questions whether death is a relief or another suffering. He fears he might defy this life only to find himself in worse situation, but there is no answer, only questions. Hamlet’s question is followed by a great thought of suffering men he has encountered. He sees life as a form punishment, a logic that justifies death (Berry and Shakespeare 5).
Hamlet’s wavering mind is furthered by his personality. He is a confused person, seems naturally. He does not even understands himself and quite unsure of almost everything. His dilemma presents even the reader with some challenges. He needs to live because he has a pending job, to revenge his father’s death. Hamlet’s confusion is prevalent in the entire acts, not only in the soliloquy.
The soliloquy mainly presents the theme of life and death. He thinks of committing suicide, but waveringly. He is thinking of committing suicide to end all the suffering the world has subjected him to. He justifies his thought by his observation of other men who are also suffering. He tries to show that he is not exaggerating the situation. Life is all about suffering, whips and scorn of time, Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of disprized love, the law's delay, The insolence of office, and the spurns That patient merit of
th'unworthy takes" (3, 1, 70-74), is all life is about. The narrator’s death will bring him an immense peace; he will not have to live up with the pain of his uncle reigning the king that is rightfully his. Death will be the only solution to the strong longing of revenge of his father’s death. He thinks the world is unfair by robbing him his rights and rendering him into misery and agony. He justifies death by considering it as a source of peace. He states "To die, to sleep -no more; and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks” (3, 1, 60-65).
Hamlet presents a question of whether one should endure the known than live of better hope of the unknown. He debates whether death will make his life easier as compared to the present life. The prevalent theme is Hamlet’s frustration and inaction at his own follies. He seems quite in introspective on his failure to slay Claudia than his inability to take his own life. The debate is clouded with the theme of action or inaction consequences (Bruster 33).
Hamlet’s cause of grief can be justified by the actions of Claudia. Based on this interpretation, Hamlet enters the scene under the watchful eye of Polonius and Claudius. His interaction with Ophelia is treated with a lot of suspicion. Claudius answers, "we have closely sent for Hamlet hither." Hamlet enters the scene unaware of anything, except suspicion. Hamlet is not free, which can be a logical source of his grief.
Hamlet’s literary style lives no one way understanding the societal concerns. The speech understanding depends on the reader, and his approach to the issues at hand. A possible understanding of the speech is that Hamlet was going crazy during the presentation. Hamlet is a just a depressed orator. Like any other individual, suicide is a common escape to stressors. His stress is acerbated by his cowardice towards Claudia. His grief is reviled when he say, "O, that this too solid flesh would melt" (Act I, sc. Ii).
Hamlet’s soliloquy them is constructed on the ever-touched theme of afterlife. Afterlife dominates the speech in killing Claudius, the controversy surrounding Ophelia’s burial, and the appearance of ghosts. In case death was an oblivious, it would the most welcomed visitor in Hamlet’s ecstasy. The fear of ‘not be,’ also clouds his minds. What if the afterlife can be full of suffering and punishment than the present? The only one way to test is die, an irrevocable decision.
Berry, David Chapman, and William Shakespeare. Hamlet off Stage. Huntsville, Tex.: Texas Review, 2009. Print. Bottom of Form
Bruster, Douglas. To Be or Not to Be. London: Continuum, 2007. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1968. Print.