Essay on Shakespeare's Hamlet:
Man's to be or not to be

From the First quarto, Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" speech :

To be, or not to be, aye there's the point,
To Die, to sleepe, is that all? Aye all:
No, to sleepe, to dreame, I mary there it goes,
For in that dreame of death, when wee awake,
And borne before an euerlasting Iudge,
From whence no passenger euer retur'nd,
The vndiscouered country, at whose sight
The happy smile, and the accursed damn'd.
But for this, the ioyfull hope of this,
Whol'd beare the scornes and flattery of the world,
Scorned by the right rich, the rich curssed of the poore?
The widow being oppressed, the orphan wrong'd,
The taste of hunger, or a tirants raigne,
And thousand more calamities besides,
To grunt and sweate vnder this weary life,
When that he may his full Quietus make,
With a bare bodkin, who would this indure,
But for a hope something after death?
Which pusles the braine, and doth confound the sence,
Which makes vs rather beare those euilles we haue,
Than flie to others that we know not of.
I that, O this conscience makes cowardes of vs all,
Lady in thy orizons, be all my sins remembred.[2]

Man’s to be or not to be, to win or to lose, to act or to give up, to live or to die is the eternal conflict regarding human nature in general, that does not refer to a particular context and so it represents all the timeless and spaceless conflicts that always torment mankind’s life adventure throughout eternity, from one generation to another.
Hamlet, prince of Denmark, wants to revenge his father’s death when he knows from his parent’s ghost he was murdered by Claudius, the present king of Denmark, Hamlet’s uncle, after seducing Gertrude, giving both birth and death as Hamlet’s mother.
The idea and then the obsession of revenge is the starting point of the conflict as a kind of interior duel towards the final goal of freedom and victory by managing different strategies such as the simulation of madness and melancholy.
Hamlet, in pretending to be mad and refusing Ophelia’s love, after killing Polonius, Ophelia’s father, spying on their love passion, decides to organize a play performing the conspiracy, thinking of the stage as a real life with actors playing real roles and situations of the court of Denmark, within the conflict between good and evil.
The conflict between ideal and real, revenge and victory, forgiveness and defeat, courage and fear, prevents Hamlet to live his lifetime chance, even if with joy and sorrow, causing a deep dive into doubts and uncertainty without taking the precious gifts of love and power and leaving the opportunity of happiness and success.
He destroys his chance of marriage: by using his Ophelia’s refusal and her death as weapons to save him from woman’s danger the origins of sing by her giving birth, in transmitting first corruption and then death, also through copulation, in a psychoanalytic Oedipus complex; he destroys his chance of a reign by acting against Claudius , his father’s brother, the rival king in love and power, instead of using diplomacy to catch dominion and position, in the conflict between reason and passion.
In fact the play shows Claudius’ crime to the court and people of Denmark in the triumph of winning emotions: at the end Hamlet kills Laerte, Ophelia’s brother and he is mortally wounded, in a duel as the personification of every insight dualism; Gertrude drinks from a poisoned bowl prepared for Hamlet, who after killing Claudius dies because of his drinking the last drops of poison from the same cup, as her mother’s source of birth and death, in the arms of Oratio, his best friend, his connection to the positive expression of human nature in love and in the feeling of friendship, whereas the other characters symbolize his connection to the negative in hate.
The dualism of the soliloquy makes man as a prisoner of his insane ambition also in the meditation of thoughts delays the carrying on of action; in a soliloquy the character addresses to no one on the stage, even if with the Ophelia’s presence and Claudius and Polonius’ latency, but to an audience disclosing and revealing his interior realm; soliloquy shapes into monologue when it turns into a lyrical poem and there are silent listeners to whom the speaker addresses.
Hamlet tries to solve the conflict between life and death by comparing it to sleep and so by softening it; in his identifying love with sex he sees his relationship with Ophelia as his mother’s incest and he expresses his fear by attacking women who drive men mad by using beauty as a weapon: he seems to talk twice, both to daughter and father, to Ophelia and Polonius.
The language used by Shakespeare’s genius recalls the conflict in mind with repetitions and contradiction, backwards and forwards, in his greatness shaping into words the state of mind generated by conflict: confusion.
The flow of mind in conflict, the torment of mankind, to be or not to be a man, to live or to be lived, translated into a flow of thoughts , actions and words of a timeless and spaceless masterpiece where man’s weakness is stronger than time and space.

Alessandra d'Epiro Dusmet de Beaulieu

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