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Critical Essays On Hamlet Soliloquies About Death

Hamlet Soliloquy Critical Appreciation

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Critical Appreciation This particular speech has become more famous than most of Shakespeare’s soliloquies and is quoted on a daily basis. The meaning of the soliloquy is quite simple. Hamlet is on the verge of committing suicide and starts by questioning whether or not it is better to live or die. When Hamlet utters the pained question, “To be, or not to be: that is the question: / Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles” there is little doubt that he is thinking of death.

After posing this question and wondering about the nature of the great sleep, Hamlet then goes on to list many sufferings men are prone to in the rough course of life, which unsurprisingly makes it seem as though he is moving towards death yet again. By the end of the soliloquy, however, he finally realises, “But that dread of something after death, / The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns—puzzles the will / And makes us rather bear those ills we have. Although at this last moment Hamlet realizes that many chose life over death because of this inability to know the afterlife, the speech remains a deep contemplation about the nature and reasons for death. Hamlet ponders whether or not he wishes to exist, inquiring whether it’s better to struggle through the trials of life or commit suicide. He declares death would be the better option if not for the unknown that death brings. It is this mystery that causes men to suffer through their mortal existence instead of ending their lives.

Throughout this Hamlet soliloquy Shakespeare has used several literary devices which are extremely important in creating the profound effect which this piece clearly has on people. The question “To be or not be” is in fact an example of antithesis. This is a rhetorical device containing a contrast of ideas in a balanced parallel construction. The use of antithesis draws attention to the first line of the soliloquy and focuses the reader on one of the play’s prominent themes. Another device which Shakespeare has deployed can be found in Lines 59, 60, and 61.

Hamlet uses metonymy, a special type of metaphor that substitutes the name of one thing with something it is closely associated with. In these examples sleep represents death. This is particularly striking as sleep does in many ways take us into the ‘undiscover’d country’ of our minds. Sleep also seems to transcend time which is very relevant when talking about death. Another literary device used in this soliloquy is the metaphor. An example of a metaphor can be found when Hamlet is comparing slings and arrows and the whips and scorns of time to life’s problems.

The use of violent language, such as ‘whips’ and ‘arrows’ , is really effective in showing just how depressed Hamlet is about life. Another example of a metaphor is in line 79. This is when Hamlet uses a metaphor, calling death “the undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveller returns. ” It is simple yet profound ideas such as these that really affect the audience and differentiate Shakespeare from other writers. There are two more metaphors in Lines 83-84. Suicide is referred to as the “the native hue of resolution,” and the fear of death is referred to as the “pale cast of thought. Another device can be found in Lines 69-73 where Hamlet uses parallel structure. This is a rhetorical device comprised of phrases with similar grammatical structure, to create rhythm and draw attention to life’s woes. Whilst some of the ideas and images in Hamlet’s soliloquy are thought provoking and profound they would undoubtedly have less of an impact if it wasn’t for Shakespeare’s perfect usage of certain literary devices. Shakespeare’s ability to combine both insight and literary genius is what makes him such a joy to read and to listen to.

Author: Brandon Johnson

in Hamlet

Hamlet Soliloquy Critical Appreciation

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Analysis of the “To Be or Not to Be” Soliloquy in Hamlet by William Shakespeare


The meaning of the “to be or not to be” speech in Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been given numerous interpretations, each of which are textually, historically, or otherwise based. In general, while Hamlet’s famous “to be or not to be” soliloquy questions the righteousness of life over death in moral terms, much of the speech’s emphasis is on the subject of death—even if in the end he is determined to live and see his revenge through.
Before engaging in the soliloquy itself, however, it is important to consider Hamlet’s lines that occur before the passage in question. In the first act of the play, Hamlet (full character analysis of Hamlet here)curses God for making suicide an immoral option. He states, “that this too solid flesh would melt, / Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew! / Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d / His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!” (I.ii.129-132). At this early point in the text it is clear that Hamlet is weighing the benefits versus drawbacks of ending his own life, but also that he recognizes that suicide is a crime in God’s eyes and could thus make his afterlife worse than his present situation. In essence, many of Hamlet’s thoughts revolve around death and this early signal to his melancholy state prepares the reader for soliloquy that will come later in Act III.
When Hamlet utters the pained question, “To be, or not to be: that is the question: / Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles” (III.i.59-61) there is little doubt that he is thinking of death. Although he attempts to pose such a question in a rational and logical way, he is still left without an answer of whether the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” can be borne out since life after death is so uncertain.
At this point in the plot of Hamlet, he wonders about the nature of his death and thinks for a moment that it may be like a deep sleep, which seems at first to be acceptable until he speculates on what will come in such a deep sleep. Just when his “sleep” answer begins to appeal him, he stops short and wonders in another of the important quotes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To sleep: perchance to dream:—ay there’s the rub; / For in that sleep of death what dreams may come” (III.i.68-69). The “dreams” that he fears are the pains that the afterlife might bring and since there is no way to be positive that there will be a relief from his earthly sufferings through death, he forced to question death yet again.
After posing this complex question and wondering about the nature of the great sleep, Hamlet then goes on to list many sufferings men are prone to in the rough course of life, which makes it seem as though he is moving toward death yet again. By the end of this soliloquy, however, he finally realizes, “But that dread of something after death, / The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn / No traveler returns—puzzles the will / And makes us rather bear those ills we have” (III.i.81-84). Although at this last moment Hamlet realizes that many chose life over death because of this inability to know the afterlife, the speech remains a deep contemplation about the nature and reasons for death.


The "To Be or Not To Be" speech in the play, "Hamlet," portrays Hamlet as a very confused man. He is very unsure of himself and his thoughts often waver between two extremes due to his relatively strange personality. In the monologue, he contemplates whether or not he should continue or end his own life. He also considers seeking revenge for his father’s death. Evidence of his uncertainty and over thinking is not only shown in this speech, but it also can be referenced in other important parts of the play.

The topic of Hamlet’s soliloquy is his consideration of committing suicide. Throughout the speech, it is obvious that Hamlet is over thinking and wavering between two different extremes: life and death. "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them" (3, 1, 56-60). In this quotation, Hamlet wonders whether he should live and suffer the hardships that his life has to offer him or die in order to end the suffering. He believes that life is synonymous with suffering. The "whips and scorn of time, Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of disprized love, the law's delay, The insolence of office, and the spurns That patient merit of th'unworthy takes" (3, 1, 70-74) are all the suffering he sees in life. Hamlet wonders if living is worth enduring these numerous pains. "To die, to sleep -no more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks...To sleep, perchance to dream" (3, 1, 60-65). Should Hamlet choose to kill himself, all of his heartaches would be put to rest. He would no longer have to watch his uncle reign over the kingdom that he believes should belong to him and his father. He would no longer have to feel obligated to avenge his father’s death. He would also never again have to watch the actions of Claudius and Gertrude, which he believes to be incestuous. Hamlet realizes that in death, his...

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