Interpretation of Hamlet's Soliloquy

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Interpretation of Hamlet’s soliloquy

In literature, two crucial factors for success are universal validity and a message that is close to many people’s thoughts about a certain subject. Probably being the most famous monologue of all time, Hamlet’s soliloquy has a universal message to which many people can relate. The main themes in Hamlet’s soliloquy are dominated by dualities - amongst others life vs. death, strong vs. weak, sane vs. insane.

Throughout the soliloquy, Hamlet treats life as a subject. As mentioned above, duality is a general theme that applies to every aspect of Hamlet’s discussion with himself. Already from the first line, the duality is present - “To be, or not to be, that is the question” (page 158, line 56). Not only is the duality mentioned in this opening line, but also the reader is introduced to the verb “be” as a symbol of life itself. This being said, the soliloquy can be interpreted as a discussion on whether to commit suicide or not. Hamlet considers the different advantages and disadvantages of each choice. Most readers would have the opinion that suicide is a display of weakness and even a way to “chicken out” on life, but Hamlet’s opinion is the opposite. The rhetorical question “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer / […] / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them.” (page 158, lines 57, 59-60) is a central point in the soliloquy. Hamlet talks about life as a very bad thing. Life is a long struggle that one can choose to endure, but that would be weak in Hamlet’s opinion. The opposite of this would be to be strong and end the life that one would have to endure.

The answer to “to be or not to be” is not that clear though. The quotation “To die, to sleep - / No more; and by a sleep to say we end / The heart-ache / […] / To die, to sleep - / To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub, / For in that sleep of death what dreams may come.” (page 158, lines 60-62, 64-66) Hamlet’s fear of...
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