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Edgar Tejada

Mr. Rousseve

Shakespeare, Period 6

11 June 2009

Hamlet’s Soliloquy

Perhaps one of the most famous quotes in literary and theatrical history, Hamlet’s

Soliloquy, “To be or Not to Be?” (III. i. 55) as it is commonly known as, involves Hamlet’s

reflection on the nature of his endeavors, revenge against his uncle and all of those who assisted

him, with reality. Hamlet was driven a mad quest for blood by an apparition that appeared to

Hamlet as his father, but here we see that Hamlet, being the only thing between his uncle

Claudius and a dynasty following Claudius, contemplates not just suicide, but reflects upon the

whole nature of existence. While Hamlet does describe death as “[A] sleep to say we end The

heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir” (III. i. 60-1), he does not

romanticize death. Hamlet quickly recognizes that while life is full of wrong doings and

suffering, it is human nature to “[D]read of something after death, The undiscover'd country from

whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will.” (III. i. 77-9). However, he makes a very clear

point that is the suffering and “The oppressor’s wrong doing, the proud man’s contumely” (III. i.

70), negative stimuli of life, that drives positive human change. Hamlet, while trying to avenge

his father and being torn in several directions by those around him (his mother, Gertrude, the

vengeful Laertes, his uncle, and even his love Ophelia), is clearly showing the weariness of life

and existence that echoes in his soliloquy. However, this is also a strong turning point for

Hamlet. He ends his soliloquy with the point that those who allow this fear of death to control

them “With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action” (III. i. 86-7). At
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this point, he affirms that he will go through with his plan to use a play of his own fabrication to

alert his uncle that he knows of the murder he committed. At this very point, Hamlet makes up

his mind in terms of his cost benefit analysis, and decides that action is key in his situation,

regardless of the risks and collateral damage he was aware would ensue. Hamlet makes a valid

point in that action for a righteous cause should supersede even the fear of death, but what makes

Hamlet different from the proud man, or law that he criticizes? He sought revenge and took it,

operating under the assumption that might makes right, without ever considering that it makes

him no different that Claudius, who usurped the throne through murder. An alien concept at the

time, perhaps justice and stability should have been Hamlet’s goals, not the immediate

gratification of revenge.
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Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. MIT. 04 May

2009. <>.