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Hamlets Fourth Soliloquy (to be or not to be) - Original Text & Summary
This soliloquy is considered to be one of the most important and fundamental lines in English literature.
Shakespeare's 'to be or not to be, that is the question' is still considered as a pioneer and stands apart in English literature.
Original Text: (To be or not to be)
Hamlet's fourth soliloquy (to be or not to be) falls in the Act 3, Scene 1.
To read the original text, click the below given link:
SUMMARY & ANALYSIS:
Hamlet’s fourth soliloquy that falls in Act 3, Scene 1, is the most famous and the most celebrated one, because it is the most philosophical of all. In this soliloquy, Hamlet enters with a dilemma: “To be or not to be – That is the question”
In this soliloquy, Hamlet enters toying with the idea of suicide. He thinks of the two alternatives as which one is more appropriate; whether to silently suffer the cruelties of fate or to put up a fight against the misfortunes of life. Hamlet thinks for a while that death may end all the troubles and problems of life. He quotes: (the death may) “end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flash is heir to”
But then Hamlet thinks of the other possibility and consequence of death and afterlife. What if death doesn't end all the troubles but increases some more and may prove to be a reflection of all the misdeeds and crimes?
What if we do not sleep in the death for eternity? What if we just cease to sleep and be restless for eternity?
This soliloquy gives us an idea that the main hindrance that comes in the way is the unknown consequences after death. One may put the misery of his life to an end, but he does not know what is saved for him after his death. He may be restless, sleepless, and more miserable than he was in his life. No one has ever come back to report what are the consequences after death. So, it always remain a matter of debate.
"No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have"
Hamlet, using the word 'We’, reflects the thoughts of all those people who once in their lifetime thinks about committing the suicide, but finally drops the idea because of several considerations including those specifically mentioned by Hamlet. This soliloquy partly explains the dilemma of Hamlet’s mind and the reason of the delay in executing the revenge of the Ghost.
Now the question arises that how this soliloquy explains the reason for Hamlet's delay in executing the Ghost's revenge and killing King Claudius?
The answer is simple. If Hamlet kills King Claudius, he was sure that he'll be dead too after killing him, and he was afraid of death because of the unknown consequences he mentions above. That is why Hamlet was in a dilemma. He was not able to make a decision whether to execute the ghost's revenge or to live in these sufferings as he is doing right now.