Hamlet has become an eternal character of classical literature not in vane – his personality has found many revelations in literature, art, and real-life during many centuries to come, and the image of a naïve, pure man who found himself caught into a cage of plotting, cruelty, and blood-thirst for the sake of power in the state of his father is still remembered by the intelligent society being able to appreciate classics.
In the famous monologue “To Be or Not to Be…” the reader sees Hamlet as a person in despair unable to resolve the challenge that he has faced. Upon finding out the true cause of his father’s death Hamlet realizes that he has to conduct revenge on the villains who did this to him. However, at the same time, Hamlet understands that the vicious community of plotters who surround him is too strong, and he may be too weak to resolve the problem he has.
In the described monologue Hamlet considers death as a possible way to escape tortures from injustice and hypocrisy that is evident in all spheres of life he encounters: all people surrounding him are plotters, and even his mother left him in his fight, being married to the murderer of her former husband, Claudius. So, Hamlet seems to be seriously thinking about suicide as a solution to his problems. Once the reader may see this intent in the repetition of the words “To die, to sleep…” twice at the beginning of the monologue. Secondly, the considerations of Hamlet are strengthened by his description of death and positive outcomes it can bring to him:
“No more; and by a sleep to say we end“Hamlet” Shakespeare
To heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks”
Hamlet justifies his opinion on the uselessness of his life by the fact that there is too much evil and injustice in it and his pure, vulnerable soul is unable to bear all sufferings anymore. He describes the life to which he is a witness in the following way:
“For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,“Hamlet” Shakespeare
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?”
From these lines the reader may see that Hamlet is looking for a sense of his life, for something that could keep him in it and for what he could fight; but at the same time, the main character is trying to justify his choice for the suicide, proving that there is nothing worthy in the life he is leading. However, as it comes from further Hamlet’s words, he does not make that decisive step to the unknown – not because he finds the strength to fight against circumstances but because he is simply afraid of something that is waiting for all people after life. His superstitions and religious fears are expressed in the following part of the monologue:
“But that the dread of something after death,“Hamlet” Shakespeare
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?”
It is possible to say that Hamlet showed himself like a coward in the monologue because he found the strength to continue his life not because of the rage and thirst for revenge, but because of the fear of the unknown. Despite the high value of Hamlet’s character in world literature it is hard to argue the fact that this passage showed the weakness and passiveness of Hamlet in the situation that was the basis of the world-known play.