The Inner Battles of Hamlet in Hamlet, a Play by William Shakespeare
Hamlet’s Inner Torment
“To be or not to be, that is the question,” is one of Shakespeare’s most well known quotes from his tragic play, Hamlet. In the play Hamlet looses his father at the hands of his evil uncle, who then marries his mother and takes over his rightful throne. Over the course of three years Hamlet has to decide how to restore the kingdom or to simply give up. In his soliloquy he looks at the different options in how he can handle his present situation and the effects of those actions. He either can kill himself, conqueror all of the problems life has thrown his way, or simply live without caring on earth until he dies his natural death.
The first choice Hamlet considers is to stand up against his uncle and kill him and claim the throne, but this comes with its own problems. The first opportune time he sees is when Claudius, the king, is in the church repenting his sins alone. Hamlet decides that he wouldn’t kill him there because then he would have a chance to repent, unlike his father. He has this inner battle between himself if killing Claudius or killing himself is the best answer.
His soliloquy shows that he is struggling with killing himself because during that time suicide was the unforgiveable sin, which meant they were condemned to hell for eternity if committed. He says meaning that he think death is just eternal sleep that he wishes to have. Yet he recognizes “there’s the rub” that in death, what is dreamt is what no soul on earth knows of which scares him. No one is able to see what that side is like because no one has ever come back from it.
He also sees the option of carrying out his life as he has now, acting crazy and not caring about the complete situation. He plays off his anger with carelessness and acts insane around everyone to complete this look. He hates his current situation, yet is frightened of what suicide may lead to, making him think that this is another way to handle the situation.
Shakespearian critics believe that “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,” to be central utterance of the play. They believe that when Hamlet and people alike begin to think about the course of action they want to choose, it can make us think twice into not doing something. For example in this speech, Hamlet’s main thought is between killing himself or not, hence “to be or not to be.” He goes back in forth about this option and when he really starts to think about doing it he remembers that it is the unforgivable sin and that nobody knows what its like down there. And because he has thought so long about it his conscience has made him think twice about it.
This soliloquy is one of the most famous quotes of it’s time and the articulation and thought that Shakespeare has put into making this character come alive shows the profoundness of what he says. As a reader, they feel compelled to think of Hamlet as real and alive with thought and action and this soliloquy proves that. His three options to deal with his current situation are to kill himself, to kill the king and reclaim the throne, or keep the appearance that he is insane. These three choices make him see the consequences of each side, the unknown and the events that play out of it.
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