Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” Soliloquy

Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” Soliloquy
  • Date:
    Jun 30, 2019
  • Category:
    Hamlet
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This soliloquy from Act 3 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was and still is one of the best known speechesfrom his works. Much work has been done in the understanding of this famous speech and each one is different from the other. The act starts where Polonius and Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enters and talks. Claudius asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern what they have learned about Hamlet’s ailment and reply that they have not been able to find its cause. Polonius and Claudius then begin their plan to ask Ophelia to find the root of his madness. That is when Hamlet delivers his speech.

The videos of Hamlet’s speech shows the emotions that play on Hamlet’s conscience and mind which is a myriad of pain, fear, love, doubt, indecisiveness and heartache which somehow borders on madness. The scene starts on the note of a question of his existence as well as his will to act “To be or not to be” wherein he contemplates to kill himself. Is it better to die and be done with it or to live but be plagued with so much suffering? In addition to this, he also thinks whether he should oppose the attacks that threaten his existence thus referring to the line “Or to take arms against a sea of troubles”, and by opposing end them”; or to just choose death, suicide if you may as a way to end his sufferings. The sufferings pertained to corruption, immorality and being hurt due to love as further evoked in the speech. So much negativity was seen in Hamlet as the speech goes on. The corruption in men and the things that he has to live with were always depicted in his words. The fear of death and the unknown which comes after it causes man to choose to live with suffering then ending it. Moreover, the thoughts of suicide became stronger as the soliloquy goes on, preying on his mind as he contemplates every single suffering he encountered as with his mother’s immorality and his own internal war becoming stronger than his wish to live and oppose them. His will to act continuously failed with each troubled thought, making him weak and unable to act against the things that continuously cause his troubles. This scene shows the depth of Hamlet’s character and his real thoughts as opposed to the thought of him being “mad” by the people around him. This part explains his depression on the how things work in his country, the corruption and immorality that lies behind what is seen by others. This Act further showed the struggles that Hamlet which was not seen in the previous acts thus giving an in-depth understanding of why Hamlet is the way he is.

Laurence Olivier’s film in which the scene of Hamlet’s speech was uttered closely depicts that of the meaning of the soliloquy. The darkness of the scene showing the deep cliff ending in vast ocean and cloudy dark skies shows the inner workings of his mind and how deep and dark the thoughts of Hamlet were at that time. The ocean with waves crashing showed how troubled his thoughts were and his never ending problems and suffering. The cloudy skies showed little light as if showing the darkness of his thought as it is with his life depicted in his speech. His struggles with wishes of death by suicide was became evident when he brought out the knife from his coat and almost stabbing himself as he thought of his troubles, but suddenly stopped when he again had thoughts on the unknown that death may bring. The thoughts of death again stop his will to act and end his struggles with life. His thoughts of death and not knowing what comes after causes him to weaken his will further. This was shown in the film as the actor loses grip of the knife and it falls to the sea thereby showing the loss of will to act, as was his wish to commit suicide as a way for him to end it all. The scene ended in the actor disappearing in the dark fog as if no resolution was found, his thoughts ending still as dark as it started.

Works Cited
“David Tennant_Hamlet’s Soliloquy,” youtube.com. 28 December 2009 .
“Oliviers Hamlet film (1948): To Be Or Not To Be soliloquy” youtube.com 26 January 2010 .