Tag Archives: hamlet

To be or not to be – Analysis

‘To be or not to be’ Analysis

In this soliloquy, Hamlet’s view of life is that it is full of hardship. He presents life as being two options; “to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles”. The use of imagery with connotations of war shows Hamlet to see life as a constant battle. The weapons mentioned are long range suggesting the possibility of being unsuspecting of the attack. This also lends itself to the possibility of missing which links to the “outrageous fortune”. The adjective ‘outrageous’ is possibly used to emphasise the connotations of fortune as it can mean the inability to predict, but it also has connotations of being more than is required. Hamlet, therefore, feels as though the odds are weighted against him. This is furthered by the metaphor used of a “sea of troubles” which equates his problems with the vast expanse of the sea and its power. These images are contrasted with Hamlet’s description of being “shuffled off this mortal coil” as the verb ‘shuffle’ is usually linked to embarrassment or awkwardness. This betrays Hamlet’s view that much that we do is pointless; the heroic deeds we believe to have done are just little actions. The specific problems Hamlet experiences are hinted at by the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to”. Not only may this mean his mother’s incestuous marriage with Claudius that upsets Hamlet, but also his dead father who returns as a spirit telling him to avenge his death which causes much of Hamlet’s anguish. This phrase may also mean the actual effects of aging or being wounded. Similarly, Hamlet calls life a “calamity” and a “mortal coil”; ‘coil’ may mean a literal coil which goes back on itself, or it may mean confusion which is the more probable meaning. Each of these examples demonstrates Hamlet’s view of the world as confusing and against him. The very reasons for this soliloquy show this as Hamlet is trying to reason with his conflicting thoughts on death.
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O, that this too solid flesh would melt…

In this post I shall tackle Hamlet, a formidable task which I feel I will not be able to do justice to its words. This feeling is one that Hamlet may have felt, and one we all feel when posed with such questions whose answers seem beyond our reach.
Due to the play’s reputation, when I did read and watch Hamlet, I felt obliged to see its deeper meaning. I certainly did, but I question as to whether it was due to what I have heard of the play or what I truly felt. TS Eliot said that Hamlet “is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear”. It is this excess that I find hard to come to terms with. I even might entertain the possibility that it is us, the audience, who have added this excess. This, however, can be argued for any interpretation so I will cease my pondering on this subject for the moment. To clarify, I am not saying that Hamlet is devoid of the meaning we see in it. I found it a very emotional play and the questions I found being posed to me are ones that we need to think about.
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