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Mortality and Existence in Hamlet

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Elizabeth Harvey

on 6 May 2015

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Transcript of Mortality and Existence in Hamlet

Mortality and Existence in
Hamlet

Mortality and Existence
The themes of mortality and existence are very present in Hamlet, as Hamlet often contemplates death and therefore existence. Every time Hamlet contemplates suicide or killing Claudius, he is drawn into an internal conflict centered on mortality and existence. Hamlet's obsession with existence and mortality is understandable because these themes are very present in events that have recently happened in Hamlet's life, such as the death of his father and the death of Ophelia.
"Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer/ The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,/ Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,/ And by opposing end them. To die: to sleep;/ No more; and by a sleep to say we end/ The heart-ached and the thousand natural shocks/ That flesh is heir to; 'tis a consummation/ Devoutly to we wish'd. To die, to sleep;/ To sleep; perchance to dream. Ay, thre's the rub;" Hamlet Act III Scene I (53)
"Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust the dust is earth, of earth we make loam, and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?" Hamlet Act V Scene I (106)
"Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,/ And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark./ Do not for ever with thy vailed lids/ Seek for they noble father in the dust./ Thou know'st 'tis common: all lives must die,/ Passing through nature to eternity."
Gertrude Act I Scene III (9)
The references to mortality and existence in Hamlet support the deeper meaning of the play by questioning the true meaning of mortality and existence. Hamlet's preoccupation with ending up in heaven or hell is present in almost all of his musings about mortality, such as in his questioning suicide and when to kill Claudius. Hamlet's main question surrounding suicide of whether or not it actually brings peace poses the question of whether or not mortality makes a difference to a person's happiness. Quotes on mortality and existence also address final equality among men, making the reader question the value of power in life if it does not secure happiness in death. The repeated contemplation of existence and mortality make the reader question what is true existence and how this existence is affected by mortality.
"And am I then revenged,/ To take him in the purging of his soul,/ When he is fit and season'd for his passage?/ No./ ... Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven/ And that his soul may be as damn'd an black/ As hell, whereto it goes." Hamlet Act III Scene III (71)
"O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt,/ Thaw and resolve itself into a dew,/ Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd/ His cannon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!" Hamlet Act I Scene II (10)
In this quote, Hamlet is thinking about suicide. He is trying to decide if it is better to deal with the pain in his life or to end his life. He recognizes that many others who suffer also wish for death, but he does not know if he is ready to kill himself because he is not sure that death will be able to bring him peace. This is one of many occurrences when Hamlet has discussions with himself questioning the what brings about the type of existence that comes after death.
Here, Hamlet is convincing himself that he needs to wait to kill Claudius until he is sure Claudius will go to hell. Hamlet's belief in existence after death and the importance of how one dies is shown because Hamlet uses these beliefs to talk himself out of killing Claudius at this moment.
In this quote, Hamlet is making the point that status in life does not in death. He says that it is impossible to tell the rich from the poor in a grave, and that even Alexander the Great returns to dirt and that his dirt may be used for a mundane service. Hamlet's reasoning shows that he believes that a person's existence in life has nothing to do with their physical existence in death.
In this quote, Gertrude is telling Hamlet to move past his father's death. Gertrude attempts to explain that death is a natural part of life, but Hamlet is unable to accept this in the case of his father. This is important to the play because it shows how trivial death is to other characters, in contrast to how seriously Hamlet perceives his father's death. The fact that Gertrude does not seem especially affected by the death of her husband also adds to Hamlet's obsession with the idea that Gertrude is being unfaithful to her late husband.
This quote explains why Hamlet is so reluctant to commit suicide and gives an example of Hamlet thinking so much that he cannot decide how to act. Hamlet's religion tells him that it is a sin to commit suicide, so in committing suicide he would be damning himself to hell and simply trading the pain of life for the pain of hell. This quote shows how indecisive Hamlet is when making decisions that he believes will have a large impact on him in the future.
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