To be or not to be Hamlet soliloquy analysis

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Zoya Kidwai

Hamlet Soliloquy: “To be or not to be…”Act 3 Scene 1

        Shakespeare’s use of soliloquies throughout “Hamlet”, show the audience a characters inner most thoughts and emotions. Soliloquies further accentuate the characters traits and underlying themes. Hamlet’s soliloquy along with Shakespeare’s use of literary techniques such as irony, metaphor and imagery, allows the audience to distinguish the underlying themes of uncertainty and death, Hamlets view of life and his innermost thoughts which furthers our understanding of his character.

        This world famous soliloquy is spoken after Polonius and Claudius hide as they hear Hamlet approaching in the beginning of Act three. Some analyses of this scene differ as to whether Hamlet is aware of the fact that he is being spied on or if he is unaware. Hamlet speaks out in a very philosophical manner, as if he is giving a seminar to someone which may indicate that he is aware that he is being spied on.

         There is no evidence in the soliloquy that indicates that he is talking about his own life as there is no use of the words “I” or “my” which further demonstrates the fact that he is wary of being listened to. Hamlet starts his soliloquy with “To be or not to be- that is the question.” It is interpreted as Hamlet contemplating whether or not he should exist or not exist. From this line alone we can relate how Hamlet is contemplating his suicide and killing Claudius. We see how Hamlet always questions himself and his thoughts. This shows the audience that Hamlet lacks confidence in himself and his ability to put his thoughts into action.

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        He feels the need to commit suicide because of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” This warlike imagery shows how in life we may encounter times when we feel that we are being attacked or fought against. This demonstrates the problems and dilemmas that Hamlet feels he has in his life. This warlike imagery used here and throughout the play shows the underlying theme of death and how many of the characters in the play are in conflict with each other.                                           

        His desire for suicide is further fuelled by him realising that in life we will face ...

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