Excerpt from the Play:
Act 3, Scene 1, Lines 63-81
"To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, 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's contumely,
The pangs of despised 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,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?"
Time and time again, there are new analyzations, theories, or thoughts that come from the writings of the poet, William Shakespeare. The play Hamlet is no different from all of his other writings of soliloquies, speeches, and ideas. And what makes this play shine out is that the ideas of having multiple meanings to the passages from this one play. A remarkable example of this can be seen in Hamlet’s speech, a soliloquy of Hamlet facing the idea of death or keeping the life of dishonesty that he currently had. In the speech, he talks to himself and compares the value of life and the value of an endless sleep. This part of the play shows another side of Hamlet that Shakespeare is slowly starting to reveal as the play winds down and prepares for the drama of the royal family of Denmark.
“To die, to sleep;” (Line 63, Act 3, Scene 1) Here, Hamlet is debating life and death. He doesn’t know what to believe due to the fact that the people around him assume that he is crazy and are willing to reiterate to the King and Queen of Denmark every action and conversation Hamlet will have whether it is to directly them or whether it is not. He it would be like he is sleeping off his problems, worries, and ideas. This one line builds the structure for what Hamlet is trying to portray. He shows that there is much more to death then meets thee eye. In line 64, act 3, scene1, Hamlet says: “To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;” going more in-depth with the thought of sleeping forever. He wants to highly consider it but then there is a draw back. Readers can see that Hamlet is highly considering the idea of death and peacefulness over his life. While Hamlet is debating on committing suicide or not, he soon realizes that there is a price for dying. The term: “there’s a rub” means that there is a price of death and that is that no one knows what comes after death.
With that, Hamlet goes into the proposal of death and what the repayment of taking his life really means in the thought of line 65-66: “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,” As Hamlet says this, he is slowly changing his mind from considering death to slowly moving back to the perks of living. He previously stated that he wanted to sleep but now states that he does not know what dreams will or will not come true in his never-ending sleep. He doesn’t even know if there is life after death on this earth. A modern day translation of this could be: “If I do die, what will happen to me? Where will I go after death and how will I go on with...anything? That is the only perk to living because I know there will be a tomorrow and I am living for today.”
And with that, we see the more rational side of Hamlet come back to say: “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's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,” (67-73) In regard to these lines, the mindset of Hamlet changes again because of his approach to appreciating life. When looking at all that he has been through, we can see that Hamlet has seen it all: his father’s ghost returning to seek revenge, a crooked king, deceitful friends, and the loss of his love’s heart and honesty.
As Hamlet goes on to the amount of deceitfulness and negativity coming from his surroundings, he drifts back into a suicidal state of mind and see that maybe: “When he himself might his quietus make…With a bare bodkin? …Who would fardels bear,” (74-75) and that maybe a dagger would do more good than the amount of harm that has already taken place in his life. Now Hamlet is stuck between a rock and a hard place, “To grunt and sweat under a weary life,” (76). Going on, Hamlet sees that death leads to peacefulness “but that the dread of something after death… The undiscover'd country from whose bourn…No traveller returns, puzzles the will…And makes us rather bear those ills we have…Than fly to others that we know not of?” (77-83)
In the most cautious and unstable state of mind, Hamlet shows that there are three sides to him, one that is afraid of death, one that will avenge his father’s wrongful death, and one that is willing to die for everything to end on his part. With that, readers can see that with the progression of the play there will always be at least one side of these three traits in him.
Here's How I Did a Close Reading of the Play: