The soliloquy which Hamlet, the eponymous protagonist of the William Shakespeare play Hamlet, delivers in its third act is notable insofar as it begins with the articulation of existential anguish: “To be or not to be. ” From there, Hamlet debates with himself on the merits of life-as-existence. He first inquires whether it is “noble in the mind to suffer / the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” or to reject a “sea of troubles” by ending one’s own existence.
Hamlet effectively contemplates on whether it is appropriate for him to commit suicide as a solution that evokes the latter option. However, Hamlet takes little security in the notion of suicide as a form of escape, for non-existence itself holds its own uncertainties. He compares the state of death with that of perpetual sleep, and therefore the rub lies in the fact that no one knows what kinds of dreams are to be held in death: “For in that sleep what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil.
” Ultimately, Hamlet decides that what troubles lay in death are too uncertain for him to go through with suicide. At the very least, his present life of anguish is besotted with problems that he already knows. There is in a sense, security in his current state of anguish, while death is only desirable if his consciousness would cease to exist, and he can take comfort in a state of existential oblivion. By rejecting suicide, Hamlet turns himself to the question of revenge for his father upon his uncle, Claudius.
What ultimately hinders his motivation to kill his uncle is that he has difficulty convincing himself that revenge is as just as he would like it to be. He disparages himself by declaiming that conscience makes “cowards of us all. ” He is even uncertain as to whether his father’s ghost is telling the truth about Claudius, and without a firm conviction and a moral justification, Hamlet resists going through with revenge, perhaps making his self-declaimed cowardice a source of nobility.