What Hamlet Is Asking Himself
The soliloquy begins with the question to be or not to be. For any character playing the part, it is the most vital question. It does not simply mean whether the character should commit suicide or continue to live in a certain way. The basis of the question is still open to interpretation. The self-dialogue shows the dilemma that face Hamlet when deciding whether to end his life or continue with his miserable existence. He also has the dilemma of whether or not to kill his father’s killer and commit murder, or let the situation remain as it was and continue seeing him married to his mother.
Hamlet had reasons why he should be angry at the world or commit suicide. In the period of the soliloquy, he was supposed to be the king. Instead, his uncle was in that position. His mother, and his father’s killer were married and they forced him to stay in Denmark instead of going back to school. In the monologue, he equates life to suffering. Hamlet is trying to debate whether life is worth living in this world that is just full of sadness and cruelty. Throughout this soliloquy, Hamlet is considering whether or not to commit suicide since his father’s murderer has married his mother. The ghost of his father approaches him and instructs him to avenge his death. Hamlets beliefs are in contrast to any decision he is declined to make. If he commits suicide and leaves his miserable existence, he believes he will be eternally damned. If he commits murder by killing his father’s murder, he suffers the same consequence as committing suicide. He sees life as an equal to suffering and he reasons that it would be better to end his life.
It could also be interpreted as Hamlet asking himself whether or not to act on his instructions by the ghost to commit revenge. In the play, he is instructed to avenge the death of his father. This is against his religious beliefs and he knows that killing, even in revenge, will earn him total damnation.
The Relevance of This Question to His Ongoing Decision to Be or Not To Be
The question to be or not to be clearly portrays the dilemma that is facing Hamlet. In the poem, Hamlet is approached by the ghost of his father and it demands revenge. The ghost informs him of the events that took place prior to his (Hamlet’s) father’s death. The ghost informs Hamlet that his father was killed and his mother quickly remarried the murderer. This made Hamlet consider killing the murderer, and then himself. Hamlet’s religious background prohibited him from committing both murder and suicide hence the question. The information from the ghost made the question easier; either being condemned to eternal damnation after revenge or continue suffering if he did not follow his father’s instructions.
Hamlet decides not doing anything would be easier, even though it was a cowardly choice. After debating with himself whether to commit suicide or not to commit murder, he chooses life. He says that consciousness makes everyone a coward. He knows that if he commits suicide he would be eternally damned and he does not risk it. He meets Ophelia and asks her whether she remembers his sins in her prayers.
Shakespeare, W., & Hubler, E. (1963). The tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.. New York: New American Library.
Shakespeare, W. (200). Hamlet. Santa Fe, Argentina: El Cid Editor.
Tarner, M., & Shakespeare, W. (2009). Hamlet. Oxford: Macmillan Heinemann ELT.