To Be Or Not To Be, Hamlet’s Soliloquy Essay, Research Paper
“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 And by opposing them.” This sentence is possibly one of the most famous ever written by Shakespeare or by anyone at all. People everywhere recite it, but most don’t know what it means. Hamlet, during his soliloquy is lamenting the unjust death of his father, but more so the betrayal to him and is father by his uncle and mother. He is also grieving the deeds the ghost of the late King Hamlet is expecting from him and the choice between living in constant personal agony and committing suicide, which would leave him vulnerable for whatever might follow.
Shakespeare frequently uses metaphors, to more accurately and more effectively describes the emotions of his characters. “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” is a perfect example of this. This describes Hamlets feelings of dismay and helps him contemplate whether it is better to suffer from this constant barrage of bad fortune or to commit suicide and oppose all these “slings and arrows” which are the cause for his suffering. Another example of this is when Hamlet ponders the idea of death and what feelings and thought that are experienced in the afterlife. “When we have shuffled off this mortal coil” he is unsure what to expect from the dreams that he could possibly experience. The “mortal coil” itself is describing life and the awkward path that it takes. He goes on and realizes that the lack of knowledge about the feelings and thoughts in death, is what ultimately keeps him from ending his life instantly. Shakespeare’s metaphors are not only limited to a phrase or a sentence, but Hamlets whole soliloquy is metaphorical.
Hamlet never actually states his indecision over suicide; he uses sleep and war to describe his emotion. Sleep is easily connected and translated to death, but the war symbolizes more. The war he describes is a metaphor for his emotions. He needs to express the turmoil he feels within him, and therefore uses the only thing that can be outrageous enough and such a frenzy of emotion, war.
The soliloquy perfectly fits into the previous actions of Hamlet. Of course this shows Hamlet is on the verge of madness if he isn’t already there. This also shows Hamlet’s frame of mind. He is always double-checking everything to make sure he doesn’t do the wrong thing. He confronts Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to assure himself that Claudius is trying to keep him in check, he puts on a play to make sure that Claudius is uncomfortable about the whole situation and he committed the murder, and now he double checks and weighs his options: Commit suicide and possibly face horror, or live in constant misery.
Hamlet is portrayed as a complex character, with a constant display of wild emotion. His soliloquy alone shows his sorrow and self-pity, along with his madness. This is also and example of how Shakespeare constantly uses metaphors and symbolism in such a flawless way, it clarifies and accents the emotions felt by the characters.