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Hamlet: what is the meaning of his "To be or not to be" soliloquy?

In this soliloquy, Prince Hamlet considers whether to commit suicide. He compares the pains of this life with his fears of the life hereafter, and decides against suicide. This soliloquy and many speeches in Shakespeare's plays written after Hamlet differ from earlier monologues in that the speech is not a clear expression of the character's already determined views - rather we hear the character's actual mental process as he thinks and feels his way uncertainly to a conclusion.

There are interpretations of this soliloquy which either deny that it concerns suicide, or seek to put an uplifting interpretation along the lines of the recruitment ad "be all that you can be" on this passage. I disagree with these interpretations.


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Copyright 2002 Dana Spradley, Publisher, for shakespeare.com