Analyze Poem

  • Category: English
  • Words: 1393
  • Grade: 100

To be or not to be:
that is the question...

20 March 2000

William Shakespeare
To be or not to be: that is the question:
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-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, "˜tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: aye, there's the rub
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man contumely,
The pangs of disprized love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
This undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

"To be or not to be that is the question"¦" In Hamlet's famous soliloquy he is debating to live, or to die. Hamlet is himself"”here and now--- wrestling with the impulse to commit suicide. Instead, he is reflecting on the general feeling and reaction of mankind, of which he is a part. (Bowers pg. 50) The one perhaps-universal dilemma that faces all of mankind is the problem of identity. (Pogrebinsky 11 www.) This is the reason we question ourselves. If you don't know who you are, you begin to reflect off of others, this is where the perfect women came out of models and superstars. He says it seems to him that life is not worth living, mostly because people treat each other so stupidly and badly. We also suffer from disease and old age--- even living to long is a "calamity." (Friedland www.) We suffer from disease because of our own fault, we destroy the world and so the world fights back. I do not however agree that we suffer from old age; age is precious and is looked on a s a reward the longer you live. However in cases of living but not living, the longer you live is senseless and painful.
"The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?" The image is military. Ill-fortune is an enemy that cannot be conquered in any direct way by mortal man. (Bowers pg. 50) We cannot avoid our future; we cannot fight against what must happen. It will only be sure to end our lives faster, is basically what he is stating, but is that statement very true? It is the idea that we cannot control our own lives, which scares many people.
"To die: to sleep; No more; and, by a sleep to say we end." To die is no more than to sleep. (Bowers pg.51) If this were true the image that heaven was the place we go when we die, would be untrue, and our lives would end in eternal sleep "where dreams may come" of good and bad. "For in that sleep of death what dreams may come" Sleep is not necessarily oblivion, for one can feel and suffer in dreams. (Bowers pg.51) So, in such a dream could be a heaven and hell there would be no escape from excepting both fates. We don't sink into nothingness but have another existence in life. (Bowers pg. 51) Hamlet doesn't have a good view for hope; he feels there is no escape from life.
"Than to fly to others we know not of?" This is a sympathetic analysis of the fear--- common to all men--- of the unknown. (Bowers pg. 86) Death is a thing that is feared, and we think of ways for our lives not really to end. It is not excepting in the mind that something just stops existing. How shall we ever know? For when we are gone we cannot tell those still living of the ways of afterlife. Death attracts as a surcease from woe, but fear punishment in the afterlife. (Bower pg. 89)
"Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution"¦" Conscience is thought of as God's viceroy, a native ability to distinguish right from wrong that God gave man as a help in the fallen state after the sin of Adam. Resolution, or determined will to action, would wear a sanguine or ruddy color, the glow of health and activity. (Bowers pg. 51) Conscience is much needed in our state of being. If we ignore our conscience then we are breaking God's will, in so doing we sin, and with that sin, what punishment may come? Conscience makes us cowards because we know when we sin and we do it anyway, to feel the danger, but what will happen in the long run scares many who except God's way of things. "And enterprises of great pith and moment, With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action." Not only is Hamlet talking about suicide-- he's also talking about "life long suicide" by doing nothing, choosing the easy passive approach to life. (Freidland www.) You either live or you don't live, if you let your conscience rule your life, you will never exceed the limits and go beyond the highest peak. That at the peak of our existence we live in greatness, but once that ends and things go bad we lose the sense of every moment. If we hold to what we are, and continue to live we would reach that peak again or loose grasp and fall even deeper into exile.
After analyzing the entire poem I have concluded that Hamlet was a wise man, although very normal as a human. He went from what other people thought and made his own conclusion to life, but he too had fears of the end, and he made it so he lived on. Although in his mind from what he has done in his life feared what was to come in his state of dreaming. In this scene Hamlet is considered collected and resigned. (Bokland pg. 128) For he is pondering his existence and life, not angry and desolate. In this sense I believe that Hamlet does not wish to die, that he believes he can succeed in life, better than breaking God's law and taking his own life, where he should live in torment in his dreams. This soliloquy makes us question our thoughts of afterlife, is there really a heaven and hell. To me, I'm not sure which to believe I've always wanted to believe in heaven, but with heaven comes hell, and if God forgives everyone then there could be no hell, but it is hard to imagine someone such as Hitler in heaven, or Stalin. So, we will continue to live in wonder of the living and nonliving until we leave and see for ourselves what may come.

Works Cited

Boklund, Gunnar. Essays on Shakespeare. Princeton, New
Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1965

Barnes & Noble Inc., Copyright 1965.

Friedland, Ed. Enjoying "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare., 1999

Sacks, Claire and Whan, Edgar. HAMLET Enter Critic. New York:
Appleton-Century-Crofts Inc., Copyright 1960

Pogrebinsky 11, Alex. Hamlet"”comment on humanity., 1999
ad 4
Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved