Hamlet: to Be or Not to Be Analysis

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The ‘To be or not to be,’ soliloquy delivered by Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play is one of the best-known passages in English drama. Hamlet’s contemplation of suicide provides insight into his current state of mind. Hamlet’s use of argumentative syntax and affirmative diction suggest someone who is thinking clearly and logically, yet the conclusion of his speech reveals someone who is cowardly and indecisive.

In the first few lines of his speech, Hamlet imposes the rhetorical question should he continue living or cease his existence. “To be or not to be,” an excellent example of syntax, sets the stage for his argument. Hamlet decides to defend the ‘not to be’ side by claiming suicide is a better option and proves this point through a series of clauses, from lines 9 through 22. He builds his argument by cross-examining the question, “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,”(line 15.) He is really questioning who would want to carry the harsh burdens life brings, meaning, if he were to follow through with his suicide all of his issues would vanish. Hamlet utilizes the series of clauses in lines 15 through 22 to display how painful life can be. “The pangs of despise’d love,” conveys how love doesn’t work out. But in the midst of this, in line 23, he seems to have a sudden change of heart. Hamlet is attempting to convince himself to commit suicide and then he uses the conjunction ‘but’ to completely overturn his previous statements. Hamlet says, “The undiscover’d country/ From whose bourn no traveller returns, puzzles the will.” Hamlet doesn’t know what comes after death and this thought scares him, this idea makes him appear weak. In his last sentence of his speech Hamlet comes down from his high horse and tells that his ‘currents turn awry’ and that he has accepted that he will continue to live. However the only reason he chooses life over suicide is that he fears the unknown. Because of this fear, he and anyone who is in this predicament will “lose the...
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