Circumstances That Prince Hamlet

Ariana O’Dell

English 1-B


Hamlet’s Contemplation

The circumstances that Prince Hamlet encounters in Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet” are truly life-altering in many permanent ways, not taking into account the original heartache experienced upon his father passing away.He began his ascension to premeditated murder with a rather enthusiastic rigor yet once the truth about his father’s death began to stew in his mind, his emotions began to run rampant.For any individual with any traumatizing experience tucked away into their past, it is no difficult feat to envision the amount of confusion, hatred, and utter sorrow that Hamlet was undoubtedly feeling in the moments of his fourth soliloquy.As it seems rather obvious that he contemplates suicide during this portion of the play, it is also apparent that he deems himself too cowardly to actually commit such an act.His overall hesitance toward action of any kind throughout the entire play suggests that he may have never stopped contemplating suicide; after all, it would be the ultimate escape from the newfound misery and terrifying murderous responsibility that was seemingly dropped into his lap.

As Hamlet contemplates taking his own life in order to achieve eternal “sleep,” (line 5)he appears to fear what the afterlife may have in store for him; as suicide is an unforgivable sin, he knows that he would be inexplicably bound for Hell after committing it.He states that the resulting “dream” (line 10) from the desired sleep must “give us pause,” (line 13) giving him a reassuring sense of logic that is not indicative of someone who has gone truly crazy.He admits to himself that it is the uncertainties of the afterlife that keep him from committing suicide, fearful that whatever torments that await him are far worse than those he currently endures.His words have thus far conveyed a sense of non-commitment towards both life and death; he does not wish to remain alive with the burdens of grief and murderous responsibility upon his shoulders, yet he also does not wish to willingly fling himself into an eternity of torment.By his thinking, the lengthiness of life is oftentimes a result of the cowardice that stems from the unforgivable sin of suicide, and more importantly, the damnation thereafter.

Hamlet experiences extreme hardship throughout the duration of the play yet when he speaks about the reasoning behind the desire to commit suicide, he lists several motives that seem far less horrid than his own.He lists the inevitability of growing old, the discrimination of others, the pain of unrequited love, the inconveniently slow law system, and the unfairness of the good luck that often befalls the wicked.It appears he is simply creating excuses as to why this desire should not be or is not exclusive to him alone (regardless of the differences in plight), and he goes on to say that committing suicide is far easier than dealing with any hardship.As he continues on with impractical comparisons, he then returns to logic by saying, “No traveller returns,” (line 25) which signifies that reluctance and hesitance are both aided by the fact that no one can come back from committing suicide to describe the afterlife they found thereafter.He concludes that these circumstances strike fear into the hearts of the wretched and rather than taking action against the injustices of life, they sit and wallow in their sorrow for fear of having it increased tenfold in the afterlife.

As difficult a decision this must be for Hamlet, he appears rather calm about the prospect of suicide, although it may stem from his perceived bliss of the utter removal of one’s tribulations.This is entirely apparent as he says the initial line of the soliloquy, “To be or not to be: that is the question,” while holding the skull of who he believes to be his childhood friend, Yorick.As someone who held this close of a position in his life, it would be assumed that he would be much more distraught over discovering that Yorick had passed but yet, he stands amidst his dismembered skeleton and somewhat calmly contemplates the idea of suicide.He seems rather unlikely to actually commit the act however, as he has already shown a certain pattern of inaction, thus suggesting that when he says, “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,” (line 28) he is referring to himself as well.This display of his internal thoughts and feelings seem to give a sense of foreshadowing for the succession of decisions he is going to make next, whether he concludes the ordeal by suicide or not.

As someone who is simply searching for a way to end his grief, he appears to also have a slight case of ‘cold feet’ when it comes to finally murdering Claudius as he could have devised a plan and put it into action far sooner, yet he seems to make excuses for his inaction at several points throughout the story instead, ironically touching upon the topic of cowardice in this soliloquy.Rather than wholeheartedly believing in the ghost of his dead father, he seeks out a means of proving Claudius’ guilt by way of forcing him to watch a manipulated rendition of the play “Murder of Gonzago,” before making any decisions as to whether or not the ghost is genuine.In another instance, he has an opportunity to murder Claudius while he is kneeling and praying yet he does not do so due to the fact that Claudius is currently repenting for his sins; doing so during this act may cause him to go straight to Heaven, a fate that is far better than that of Hamlet’s father — a misfortune that was caused by Claudius himself.As Claudius was still planning on living with the throne and wife he had acquired from his wicked deeds, it seems highly unlikely that God would be as forgiving as Hamlet automatically assumed; a true repentance would involve shedding light on his sins and taking whatever consequences would come his way, a fact that Hamlet only too conveniently overlooked.It seems as if this sort of devastation was definitely not one that Hamlet was built to endure and being forced into doing so efficiently unwound the fabric of his very personality, putting his morals, fears, rage, and despair under stresses he likely never thought possible.

It is realistically improbable to try and determine how any one individual would react to the exact same circumstances as Hamlet, yet he does show a good amount of strength as he considers staying alive to deal with the burdens of life as he believes everyone else does.He even shows a certain amount of dedication to his endeavors as he continues onward to berating Ophelia with nasty remarks even though at the end of this soliloquy, he expresses his fondness for Ophelia by saying, “The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons, be all my sins remember’d.”There is no denying that Ophelia is one of the few things he had left that made him happy and yet, he knew he was doomed to sabotage their growing relationship with the actions he was burdened with committing.He also speaks of cowardice, but is potentially unthinkingly describing himself in doing so as he is too much a coward to either commit suicide or murder his uncle as his dead father instructed.Either situation dooms Hamlet himself to an eternity in Hell and yet, it seems that another possible reason for his inaction in this moment is due to the fact that he can always just remove himself from the situation entirely (as he did before by going back to England), and try to live a holier life to obtain the heavenly afterlife it appears he is doomed to forfeit if he remains in Denmark.Hamlet’s state of mind throughout this soliloquy (although hesitant and logical) is one of utter despair and confusion; however, it is safe to say that such circumstances would most likely make a similar wreck out of most individuals in any society.Works Cited

Shakespeare, William.“Hamlet.”Quarto Edition; Unauthorized Text, 1603.