Hamlet Close Reading - Double T

“To Be Or Not To Be”: Spoken by Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1

“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 wish’d. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;

This is the oh so famous “To be or not to be,” speech by Hamlet. It is different from his first two soliloquies. This is said out of reason, no frenzied emotion. He sparks a debate in his own mind, to see if it would be more beneficial to continue being, or to end his being. The socially accepted answer would be to suffer through the pain, to “man up.”

When hamlet recites the line, “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” He talks about a demonic or violent, unfortunate serious of events. The slings and arrows from the outrageous fortune caused Hamlet to declare an internal war with himself. He says, “Or take arms against a sea of troubles,” to show that his war is endless. He then follows with, “and by opposing them? To die: to sleep;” this is his way of showing that he is fighting with himself. He cannot win. If he opposes one side he will die. The reasoning behind him saying these words comes back to when he was a child. He was not a normal child. He had to be sent away which made him even more crazy. When he came back the different thoughts in his head collided, causing a massive brawl in his thoughts to occur. 

The rest of the Quote shown above chooses to lean to one side of the argument. Hamlet tries to decide how things would be if he were dead. He thinks that others would want to die because his presence is gone. He does not understand that if he dies, he is the only one who will die. There is a “heart-ache” from him being alive. Hamlet does not believe that he will feel better then he does now. When he recites, “That flesh is heir to, ‘tis a consummation,” he says that it is his humanly right to accept death and all of its wonderful benefits. He wishes and desperately wants to take his life. He has made up his mind by this point and wants nothing to do with his life. But, he finally says, “To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub” which contradicts everything he just said. He asks for oblivion. He wants people to think that he is perfectly fine. He wants people to think he was dreaming the whole time and that he does not actually want to kill himself. He does not know what he wants.