T. Brown, S. Barloon, L. You, A. Williams

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Although Hamlet ultimately rejects it at the end of the play, suicide is an ever-present solution to the problems in the drama. Discuss the play's suggestion of suicide and imagery of death.


I am thy father's spirit,
Doomed for a certain term to walk the night

And for the day confined to fast in fires,

Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature

Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid

To tell the secrets of my prison house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word

Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
The ghost explains to Hamlet that he must avenge his father's death as his father's soul walks purgatory until his murderer is rightfully punished.

Hamlet is obsessed with the idea of death.He ponders both the spiritual aftermath of death, embodied in the ghost.
Is the ghost really the spirit of his deceased father or a figment of his crazed imagination?
Is it right of Hamlet to avenge the death based on the visit of this ghost?

"Let me see. (takes the skull) Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy."

He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now,
how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it.
Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft.
—Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs?
Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on
a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning? Quite
chapfallen? Now get you to my lady's chamber and tell her,
let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come.
Make her laugh at that.—Prithee, Horatio, tell me one
When Shakespeare says, “get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come” he means that no one can avoid death. In the line “Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft,” he is indicating his fascination with the physical consequences of death. Hamlet frequently makes comments referring to every human body’s eventual decay, noting that Polonius will be eaten by worms and that even kings are eaten by worms.

Throughout the play, the idea of death is closely tied to the themes of spirituality, truth, and uncertainty in that death may bring the answers to Hamlet’s deepest questions, ending once and for all the problem of trying to determine truth in an ambiguous world. Claudius’s murder of King Hamlet and Claudius’s death is the end of that quest.

"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 " "To die, to sleep 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"

Scene I
Hamlet, Prince Of Dennmark

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 heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep.

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,

Th' 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 th' 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 undiscovered country from whose bourn

No traveler returns, puzzles the will

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.—Soft you now,

The fair Ophelia!—Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remembered.

This is one of the most famous speeches in which Hamlet debates the question of Suicide. He is plagued with questions about the afterlife, about the wisdom of suicide, and about what happens to bodies after they die. This quote proposes many question such as: Does the uncertainty of Death give reason not to attempt suicide? If you end your one life what happens afterwards? The question is: Is it better to be alive or dead? Is it nobler to live a long trying life or to end it prematurely? If you knew what awaited afterwards would you not go through "all life's humiliations—the abuse from superiors, the insults of arrogant men, the pangs of unrequited love, the inefficiency of the legal system, the rudeness of people in office, and the mistreatment good people have to take from bad" (Quote translating lines70 to 80) At a number of points in the play, he contemplates his own death and even the option of suicide.

Act I
Scene III
lines 129- 158
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God, God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Hamlet wishes that God had not made a law against suicide.He says that he wishes he would dissolve in dew and leave this earth. He also explains that now life is so stale and pointless to him.

The question of his own death plagues Hamlet throughout the play, as he repeatedly contemplates whether or not suicide is a morally legitimate action in an unbearably painful world. Hamlet’s grief and misery is such that he frequently longs for death to end his suffering, but he fears that if he commits suicide, he will be consigned to eternal suffering in hell because of the Christian religion’s prohibition of suicide. In his famous “To be or not to be” speech Hamlet philosophically concludes that no one would choose to endure the pain of life if he or she were not afraid of what will come after death, and that it is this fear which causes complex moral considerations to interfere with the capacity for action.

1. Holton, Jeremy. "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare". February 25, 2007 (November 13. 2000).< http://shakespeare.mit.edu/>

2. Notes, Spark. "SparkNotes: Hamlet." SparkNotes. SparkNotes. 23 Feb 2007 <http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/hamlet/section15.rhtml>.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. First. New York: Signet Classics, 1998.

3. Mabillard, Amanda. "Shakespeare's Hamlet." Shakespeare Online. 10 Nov. 2000. (February 21, 2007) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/gertrudechar.html >.