Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet Classics

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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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 about his crappy life but rarely, if ever, even tries to
do anything about it. Even in his desire for death he will speak but not act. He
has wished for ceath at least ten times during the play, but when it comes right
down to it Hamlet is to scared to act on his desire. He doesn't decide against
suicide because of some noble realization (that life is far to precious to be
wasted for example), he is just too scared of the afterlife. Hamlet, in the play
up to this point, claims to be in dire straits but his paralyzing fear keeps him
from action. He would rather suffer with his situation for fear that his actions
to make it better would make it worse: "And makes us rather bear those ills
we have than fly to others that we know not of"(3.1.82-83). Hamlet's
motivation for wanting to die and also for remaining alive gives some of the
best insight into his personality. In this speech Hamlet elects not to kill
himself and discovers why he has not yet done it. Hamlet is a very seriously
disturbed, depressed guy. He says clearly that he is in great pain but more than
that he is weary of his life and that is why he wants to die. He has grown tired
of the day to day struggle to survive and that, not his problems themselves is
why he desires death. His reason for choosing life over death is also shown
here. He is too afraid of the unknown, of the "undiscovered country"
(3.1.80) to act on his desire. Perhaps this second reason is a result of the
first? It is not so much that he is afraid to act, just that he has become so
despondant that he doesn't really care enough to do anything. This speech,
especially the reasons it defines for his desires and actions, shows us what
goes on inside Hamlet's head. It shows us why he wants to die and also why he
chooses to remain alive. The process behind these desires defines Hamlet and
allows us to make generalizations about his motivations. All of his actions
thoughout the play, up through the end of the story, can be viewed as a
consequence of his despondence and cowardice. Hamlet lays out in this speech
exactly what kind of person he is.
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