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Life and Death in Hamlet
Transcript of Life and Death in Hamlet
By Nathan Dyok
Throughout the play, Hamlet thinks about very critical questions and views regarding human life and death. He comes to the conclusions of people putting up with painful lives out of fear of death, people being nothing more than beasts if they do not use their given ability of thought, and that everyone is the same when it comes down to basics.
This reasoning by Hamlet gives the reader insight into his general mood in the play. With the play as a whole, the ideas intrigue the reader into questioning the convictions of the characters and of themselves; this critical reflection that the drama evokes makes for an exceptionally significant piece of literary text.
After his father's death in the play, Hamlet becomes almost obsessed with the concept of life and death. He critically thinks about it multiple times throughout the remainder of the Shakespearean tragedy, coming to many insightful conclusions.
Act i Scene ii
In this scene Hamlet performs a soliloquy in which expresses suicidal thoughts: "Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt / But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue." (I.ii.129-159). He describes how life to him is tired, stale, and pointless, but that he cannot or will not commit suicide as it is considered a sin.
The soliloquy is the first sign of Hamlet beginning to contemplate life and death. It also shows that Hamlet is deeply troubled or upset, and that this distress is the thing that is making him ponder such controversial ideas.
Act III Scene i
Hamlet performs his famous "To be or Not to Be" soliloquy in this scene. Throughout it, Hamlet discusses how nobody really knows what happens after death. He concludes by saying that it is the fear of this mystery that makes people continue to live out their painful and miserable existence instead of just ending it.
This train of thought and the viewpoint of life being full of suffering confirms that Hamlet is severely depressed if not suicidal. It can also suggest that the reason for Hamlet's procrastination in taking revenge against his uncle is the strong feelings of despair that overwhelm him. If Hamlet is questioning the point of living, then he most certainly questioning the point in even attempting to take revenge.
Act IV Scene iv
Hamlet performs another soliloquy in which he briefly considers what it means to be human. His comment is that a person is nothing more than a beast if all they do is eat and sleep, and that people were not made with the power of thought in order for it to not be used: "What is a man / to fust in us unused." (IV.iv.32-38).
Hamlet ponders this meaning as he criticizes his own inaction and procrastination in carrying out revenge for his father. At this point in the play, it is still unclear if he is still suicidal.
Act V Scene i
In this second last scene Hamlet
comes across the skull of Yorick the court jester. While experiencing a wave of nostalgia from remembering Yorick in his childhood, Hamlet remarks that everyone is pretty much the same and ordinary when it comes down to the basics. He gives the examples of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar; even though both are hailed as legendary or revered, what physically remains of them could be used in a very mundane way such as plugging a hole in a barrel: "No, faith, not a jot / Should patch a wall t' expel the winter’s flaw" (V.i.187-196).
This conclusion shows that Hamlet still has a depressed disposition as he is still questioning the point in living and striving to achieve something, believing that in the end it doesn't really matter that much.