How does Hamlet treat the idea of suicide considering the “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt” soliloquy (I.ii.129–158) and the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy (III.i.56–88). Why does Hamlet believe that most human beings choose to live, despite the cruelty, pain, and injustice of the world?
How Does Hamlet Treat the Idea of Suicide – Sample Answer
As an integral theme in Hamlet, suicide has taken center stage in the play. It links the characters of Hamlet and Ophelia, eventually shaping the concerns of the play to fit in a general scope. In the play, Hamlet thinks intensely about the implications of suicide and even contemplates it while Ophelia, on the other hand, carries on with her plan and takes her own life. Suicide also takes on a tangential direction while still remaining relevant throughout the play, only brought up at various points in the aim of furthering other motifs. Suicide in the play is not as a result of character flaw in Hamlet nor is its depiction fully thematic in nature. Ophelia’s death, for example, serves as the final tragedy in this classic play. The death also creates a continuity in the motif that then casts Catholicism in a bad light due to its rigidity and corruption. There are two references to suicide; in the first and fourth soliloquies. In the first one, he speaks symbolically about the despair he has sunk into, perhaps alluding to the despair Richard II after losing his crown(Hankins 45). The purpose of this essay is to analyze how the play treats the notion of suicide religiously, morally and aesthetically with the principal focus being on Ophelia’s death and Hamlet’s soliloquies.
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With regard to the suicide from a religious standpoint, Hamlet is in a state of unending meditation about the religious laws that govern individuals. What most experts in Shakespearian literature agree upon is that in both cases suicide as a major upshot gains a religious presentation. Hamlet laments that a deity dubbed “The Everlasting” fixes his canon to the people against self-slaughter. In the second scene of Act 1, Hamlet expresses his desire to die but afterward laments that he is aware of the fact that God has a law that forbids individuals from taking their own lives. He describes death in a manner that is both beautiful and comforting likening it to the transformation from a state of solidity to liquid form. One gets the impression that he would prefer to be alive, other than alive but happens to be bound by his religious obligation made when he became a follower of God’s word. Additionally, Ophelia’s burials receive sanctions from the clergy after the suspect that she might be responsible for committing suicide. The play thus seems to imply that there is a certain amount of stigma attached to the whole idea of suicide, especially by the religious authorities from the course of action they take after having the slightest whiff that one might be responsible for taking their own life(Jenkins 34). It was clear from the play, that Ophelia’s death was purely accidental, but the gravediggers and priests are certain that she committed suicide(MacDonell 13). Perhaps what Shakespeare intended was for the reader to go through a moment of self-interrogation seeking to know whether it matters if she died from suicide or any other way.
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The morality of suicide is an issue that Hamlet grapples with throughout the play. The first soliloquy features his disposition that warrants suicide as an option to escape a life of misery. He believes that every human being is capable committing suicide, but most choose life instead, an indication that this feeling occurs naturally. For Hamlet, what prevents him from committing suicide is his moral obligation to avenge the death of his father. However, this stark reminder does not stop him from bringing up the question of whether he should take his own life or continue living. Hamlet suffers greatly from a state of depression. As a victim of depression, he is clearly in a melancholic state that is typical of an individual suffering from this condition. Hamlet laments “To die, to sleep….No more; and by a sleep to say we end…The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks…That flesh is heir to…….is a consummation ……Devoutly to be wished” (Shakespeare and Hibbard 60). The state of utter depression Hamlet suffers from provides an opportunity for him to contemplate and think about life. It is at this moment that he deeply reviews the moral implications of committing suicide before avenging the death of his father.
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Aesthetically speaking, the first scene in the third act makes numerous mention of suicide with questions on whether it is noble to be alive and live a life of utter pain and suffering. He suggests that one can take up arms and fight this sea of troubles by committing suicide. Additionally, he also contrasts daily occurrences in daily life, aesthetically speaking, and what would happen if the comes to the decision of taking his life. His life experiences are filled with what he refers to as bouts of “heartache” together with “thousands of natural shocks”. All this gives the picture of a man whose flesh is injured physically and bleeding from the shock that life brings his way(Shakespeare and Jordan 78). He is of the opinion that death will offer him a restful abode where he can sleep in peace. The restful sleep (that is death) and dreams are all hypothesized. Death is painted as being serene, calm and beautiful by Hamlet who in a way even seems to admire it. To him, life is ugly and in comparison to his desire to commit suicide, he presents death as something that people need to desire.
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