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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Special Hamlet Issue of Mississippi
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1622  Tuesday, 26 June 2001

From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 Jun 2001 10:58:39 +0100
Subject: 12.1609 Special Hamlet Issue of Mississippi Review
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1609 Special Hamlet Issue of Mississippi Review

Karen Peterson-Kranz writes

>  . . . I'm curious if anyone on the list agrees with
> Skloot's opinion that Hamlet is not really contemplating
> suicide when he speaks the "To be or not to be" soliloquy.

It's not a soliloquy, of course, but this bit refers only indirectly to
suicide:

HAMLET  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.

The choices in this sentence are (i) to passively accept, or (ii) to die
fighting back. The tricky part is how far one might be allowed to hope
to be killed in fighting back, since the Everlasting would look askance
at a deliberately suicidal mission. (Which tactic Sartre called "the
nuclear bomb of the oppressed".) What is feared later in speech is the
hereafter, again not directly to do with suicide but rather with death
as a consequence of taking a stand.

W J Lawrence thought that this speech must once have occupied the
position now filled by "O that this too too solid flesh would melt",
which replaced it. Otherwise it's absurd: the other side is no longer an
undiscovered country to Hamlet, having met a traveller returned from
that bourn.

Gabriel Egan

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