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Autor: reviewessays • March 17, 2011 • 1,682 Words (7 Pages) • 561 Views
In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, suicide is an important and continuous theme throughout the play. Hamlet is the main character who contemplates the thought of suicide many different times throughout the play, since the murder of his father. Hamlet weighs the advantages of leaving his miserable life with the living, for possibly a better but unknown life with the dead. Hamlet seriously contemplates suicide, but decides against it, mainly because it is a mortal sin against God. Hamlet continues to say that most of humanity would commit suicide and escape the hardships of life, but do not because they are unsure of what awaits them in the after life. Hamlet throughout the play is continually tormented by his fathers death and his inability to get revenge and Claudius and on several occasions seriously considers suicide, but always ends up backing out because it is a sin forbidden by God. Opehlia, on the other hand, is driven mad by her father's murder and by Hamlet's betrayal and commits suicide. But because she is part of the royal family, her sin is forgiven and she is given a full Christian burial, despite even the priests' suspicions about the cause of her death. With suicide being so openly displayed and discussed in the play, it seems that suicide was not on any social level, considered anything degrading or disrespectful.
We first see Hamlet contemplate suicide after Claudius and Getrude ask him to stay in Denmark, rather than return to Wittenburg to resume his studies against his wishes. In Hamlet's first soliloquy, Hamlet clearly wants to commit suicide, and wishes that his, "solid flesh would melt,/Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!" (I. ii. 133-134). Hamlet wishes that his body would melt away so he would not have to see Claudius and Getrude together again, and pretend as though all is well. Hamlet explains to us that he does want to die, but he says he can not because, "the Everlasting had not fix'd/His canon 'gainst self slaughter! O God! O God!" (I. ii. 135-136). Hamlet wishes that the Everlasting or God, had not set canon, or law, against suicide. Hamlet continues on and almost complains on the state of the world, calling it stale, flat, and unprofitable, showing how truly miserable he is. Hamlet considers suicide as a possible option of escape from his life in a painful world, but feels as though religion is preventing him from doing so. Hamlet then provides us with the roots for his pain and the reason for his contemplation of suicide. Hamlet is is troubled by his mothers marriage to Claudius, but especially how quickly the two were married after his father's death. He continues to express his dislike and hatred for Claudius calling him a satyr, while praising his father and saying how excellent of a king his father was. In one of the final lines of the soliloquy Hamlet comments on how the marriage is a bad omen for Denmark, "It is not, nor it cannot come to good," (I. ii. 163). For the first time we are introduced to the idea of suicide which will continue to present itself as the play develops.
When Hamlet is set up and spied on by Claudius and Polonius, he examines the moral aspect of suicide in a painful world. He opens his soliloquy with asking a simple question, "To be, or not to be:that is the question:" (III. i. 58), that is, whether to live or to die. He then begins to question whether it is nobler to suffer life and the, "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," (III. i. 66), or to take ones life and end one's suffering. He compares death to sleep and at first thinks that this sleep will bring an end to ones pain and suffering, but also the uncertainty it might bring. Hamlet then decides that suicide is truly the desirable course of action, "'tis a consummation/Devoutly to be wish'd," ( III. i. 71-72). But even in his admitting that suicide is the best course of action he also admits with using the religious word, devoutly, that there is more to this question, and that is what will happen to someone in the afterlife. Hamlet corrects himself and continues his metaphor of dreaming in the after life, and he is uncertain what kind of dreams await us in the after life, and that these dreams should not haunt us but give us rest. He then concludes that the uncertainty of the after life after suicide is what ultimately prevents all of humanity from committing suicide to end the pain which people experience throughout their life time. He outlines a list of all of the situations which would drive someone to the point of suicide, ranging everywhere from problems with love to hard work to political oppression. Hamlet then asks who, if anyone, would choose to suffer through all of these terrible situations when one could end the suffering with a knife, "When he himself might his quietus make/ With a bare bodkin?" ( III. i. 83-84). Hamlet answers his own question by saying that no person in their right mind would submit to these horrible situations in life when one could just end it all with a knife, except that the "dread of something after death," (III. i. 86), forces people to deal with the problems of their life because they have no idea what to expect after death, and after death might even be more miserable than their life. The uncertainty surrounding the afterlife is what leads people to submit to live their lives, and that our, "conscience does make cowards of us all;/ And thus the native hue of resolution/ Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,"