Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 9 years ago

What is the most important line in the play "Hamlet"?

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    9 years ago
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    "to be or not to be that is the question"

    This is part of Hamlet's soliloquy which is probably one of the most famous speeches in the English language, it is spoken by Hamlet in Act III, scene i . This quote is his most logical and powerful examination of the theme of the moral legitimacy of suicide in an unbearably painful world, it touches on several of the other important themes of the play. Hamlet poses the problem of whether to commit suicide as a logical question: “To be, or not to be,” that is, to live or not to live. He then weighs the moral ramifications of living and dying. Is it nobler to suffer life. He compares death to sleep and thinks of the end to suffering, pain, and uncertainty it might bring in his speech furthermore there is more to the question, namely, what will happen in the afterlife.

    This speech and this quote connects many of the play’s main themes, including the idea of suicide and death, the difficulty of knowing the truth in a spiritually ambiguous universe, and the connection between thought and action. In addition to its crucial thematic content, this speech is important for what it reveals about the quality of Hamlet’s mind. His deeply passionate nature is complemented by a relentlessly logical intellect, which works furiously to find a solution to his misery. He has turned to religion and found it inadequate to help him either kill himself or resolve to kill Claudius. Here, he turns to a logical philosophical inquiry and finds it equally frustrating.

    Moreover other interpretations which can be made from this quote is

    1. It could be about suicide or merly the condition of being dead.

    2. Since he last expressed suicidal thoughts (in the 'Too too solid flesh' soliloquy) the situation has worsened in that he is now convinced his father’s death was murder and he must take revenge on his uncle, who is also his stepfather and king, and Ophelia has rejected his love. On the other hand while the other soliloquies are intensely subjective and agonised, ‘To be’ is almost studiously abstract, not containing a single ‘I’ or ‘me’ nor much obvious passion.

    3. 'Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer … Or to take arms’ seems obviously to ask whether it is better to be Stoically passive to life's troubles or heroically active against them. The trouble is how this relates to ‘to be or not to be’. Some regard it as a different question, dismissing the problem by claiming Hamlet's thoughts have already moved on, while others perceive a logical relationship; of these, some think ‘to be’ is ‘to suffer’ and others that ‘to be’ is ‘to take arms’.

    4. On its own, ‘Conscience makes us cowards’ seems straightforwardly to condemn moral consciousness for preventing action. One problem with this is the likelihood a moral hero would condemn morality; the other is again logical. The word 'Thus' suggests Hamlet has deduced this conclusion but since morality has not figured in the speech it seems to many critics a nonsequitur. They suggest an alternative meaning of ‘Conscience’ such that the fault lies with our thinking about death, or with thinking per se.

    Source(s): studying Hamlet by Shakespeare at the moment
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