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MBurba - Analysis of " To be or not to be "
by MBurba - (2020-12-03)
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Analysis of “ To be or not to be “


“ To be or not to be “ is a soliloquy so it is a form of writing which implies that somebody, in this case Hamlet, is talking to himself pretending nobody can hear him. It is written between 1600 and 1601 and takes place in a room of the castle. 


Right from the start the intelligent reader understands something about the structure of the text. It is organized according to posing a question and in front of such question there are two possible options: to live but suffer or to die.

 Therefore Hamlet wonders whether to keep the pain in his mind or to take arms and fight against a sea of troubles. The soliloquy follows a binary structure indeed Hamlet analyses the different possibilities: the first is to die, that is ‘not to be’. Hamlet analyses the consequences of the decision of dying and the colons opens up the argumentation: to die means to sleep forever. And if you fall in an eternal sleep you will suffer no more. Shakespeare, through Hamlet’s words, is pondering about someone who dies, who will suffer neither in the mind nor in the body.


In the first line the verb “to be or not to be” wouldn’t have the same effect saying “ to live of not to live” because “to live” refers to physical life; on the contrary “to be” opens multiple choices of interpretation. It may mean “to exist”, “to live” or “to remain alive”.

The semantic choice expresses a wider potential because the verb “to be” is an infinite verb that includes all human kind. In addition it implies both the physical and the emotional dimension of living. Moreover the infinite tense magnifies the meaning of the verb. Even from the structural point of view, the reader should understand live and to die . There are a lot of levels of meaning and Hamlet is pondering the two different positions.   


Furthermore Hamlet’s language is abstract and concrete at the same time. Firstly he speaks about “to be nobler in the mind”, since he is already an aristocrat, and about “a sea of troubles” exploiting metaphorical, abstract language. Secondly, he uses a very concrete language, and concrete expressions such as “slings and arrows ” that materially convey the pain he is feeling. Concrete language is juxtaposed to the abstract consideration “to be or not to be ”, creating a contraposition between the abstract and the concrete, that conveys both the emotional and the physical suffering.  


In  this text life is the central of investigation and it is also a mixture of battles which you have to cope with.