Monday, November 12, 2012

Suicide of Hamlet

In the play, Hamlet one of the most interesting motif that I notice we have not discussed in class is the motif of suicide. Ironically, it is the one act of “murder” that Hamlet cannot commit. But, the question about this motif, is the question of why. Why can Hamlet not kill himself? Is he not grief stricken enough from his father’s death? Does he not feel the shame of the acts of his mother?  He cannot even grieve and take his time to grieve for his father, for everyone wants him to move on and forget about his father as if he never existed? If there are these circumstances surrounding Hamlet, why not kill himself? The first clue to why he cannot actually kill himself is the fact that the story would be over before it even began. Hamlet would be dead and his father would not be avenged and Hamlet would have failed as a son for avenging his father.  We see this in the scene when Hamlet's father comes to him in Act I as a ghost and tells him that King Claudius has murdered him and that Hamlet should avenge him. Hamlet is clearly upset  and all of the grief that he experiences leads Hamlet to contemplate suicide.  This is demonstrated through his famous soliloquy, "to be, or not to be; that is the question:" (3.1.58). But Hamlet is uncertain whether or not he should end his life, because now he is given a purpose. Kill Claudius.

Furthermore since Hamlet is a Christian, committing suicide is against his religion. Hamlet may not seem to be God-fearing, but through the quotes, "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" (3.1.59-62), we see that he may not be God-fearing, but he is a man of nobility. What bigger shame towards one’s lineage than suicide? If you are of noble descent, you are to be expected to act in that noble light. This is seen in the scenes in class where Claudius and Prontieaus would send out spies to look over his son to see if he is acting in an un-noble fashion. In addition to the idea of nobility, if Hamlet were to commit suicide, he would not be remembered for something brave. In fact he would be remembered for being crazy with grief and not even avenging his father. The dishonor that Hamlet would face is embarrassing for no one wants to be remembered as a crazy fool who was full of grief that he was not brave enough to live through life.  Although he does express how he would put an end to "the heartache and the thousand natural shocks/ that flesh is heir to" (3.1.64-65). He would have no worries and no more heartache. The pain of losing his father would not be there at all. However, it would not be the noble thing to do. 

1 comment:

Maeve Halliday said...

I actually don't think that Hamlet's decision to kill himself has much to do with his status, but rather his fear about where he'll end up in the afterlife. When Hamlet says, "For in that sleep of death what dreams may come/ When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause," he is making the point that by killing himself to avoid the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" in his mortal life, he might be opting for a far more sinister eternity in Hell.