To Be or Not to Be - Hamlet's Answer Essay

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To Be or Not to Be - Hamlet's Answer

As Hamlet approaches a waiting Ophelia, he begins one of the most famous soliloquies in all of literature with the immortal line: 'To be or not to be?that is the question' (III. i. 64). Yet this obvious reference to suicide only scratches the surface of the heart-rendering conflict felt by the young Dane.

Hamlet's impetuous desire to take his own life is only an impassioned reaction to the heavy burden of revenge that his father's murder has placed upon him. His greater struggle, and the focus of Hamlet itself, involves the questioning of the purpose and meaning of a life well-lived. The character of Hamlet pursues this knowledge through his manipulation of reality, his search for the courage
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He becomes so proficient at manipulating the actions of others that it becomes difficult for him to clearly communicate his fears and concerns. After confronting his mother with all he knows about the murder of his father, Gertrude dismisses this information as the rantings of a madman. In a desperate attempt to be believed, Hamlet pleads, ?My pulse as yours doth temperately keep time/And makes as healthful music. It is not madness/ That I have uttered? (III. iv. 161-163). In his struggle to confront both his feelings and his responsibilities in this difficult situation, Hamlet first strives to understand the fine line that separates reality from illusion. Gaining control of that understanding of reality is a critical first step for Hamlet in his journey toward self-knowledge.

As Hamlet strives to understand the illusory nature of his world, he also learns just how much courage is required to cope with extreme adversity. As the play opens, Hamlet is despondent over the loss of his father. He claims, if only to himself, ?How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable / Seem to me all the uses of this world!? (I. ii. 137-138). Not only does he lack the energy to cope with his situation, but he lacks the simple courage to choose a course of action. Even as Hamlet conceives his plan to reveal Claudius? treachery through the play, he still questions his ability to follow through with his scheme.
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