The theme of suicide in Shakespeare's Hamlet has been dealt with specific intention to understand the cause behind self killing in some human being. This has been further enhanced with the interrogative analysis led by Hamlet about the instances where even if people are capable of suicide, yet choose to live and endure the cruelty, pain and injustice of the world.
In this paper, this contrastive context of suicide has been analysed from moral, religious and aesthetic fronts. The approach is based on selected quotes from the text in reference to the selected context.
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Suicide has been considered by Hamlet as the only means to escape the traumatic conditions of life. For him, it is only through self killing he can get rid of all kinds of frailties that are happening around him. However, the weakness in Hamlet as depicted by Shakespeare is that of being 'indecisive'. It is this 'flaw in this character' that compels him to undergo continuous state of confusion and restlessness about his existence. The question to whether attempt suicide or not plagues Hamlet continuously in the whole play. However, he also contemplates the issue of self killing under moral and ethical context. He analyses suicide under the question of being morally legitimate or not. The killing of his father by his uncle and the betrayal of his mother makes him feel that he cannot avenge against them, and as such suicide is the only way that remains for him. But on moral grounds he cannot attempt suicide as self-killing will leave his father's soul haunted and he will never be able to forgive himself. Moreover, if Hamlet kills himself, he will be doing injustice to his countrymen. In the place of his father, it is rude Caudius who will reign over the kingdom and that will make the citizens suffer more. On moral grounds, Hamlet cannot choose to negate his responsibilities towards his kingdom and thus is at the verge of serious confusion.
On religious ground Hamlet fears that if he commits suicide, he will be going against his religion. According to Christian religious believes there are strict prohibitions for all those activities that can lead to self-killing or suicide. As birth and death are all in the hands of God, to violate his law will leave him condemned. As he kills himself, he will be never forgiven by his religion and as such, he will be consigned for a state of eternal sufferance in hell. Hamlet cannot deliberately choose to be thrown in Hell. All his life he maintained a good life and just for not being able to bear with the situational trauma, if he commits suicide, he will never get a chance to save his soul. This context of religion about suicide has been well expressed by the Clown in-
Clown: %u02DD...And the more pity that great folk should have count'nance in this world to drown or hang themselves more than their even-Christen. %u02DD (Act V, Sc i)
Hamlet well understands the conditions that compel man to continue with a life that has nothing else to give him than pain. Even though he can end his life, yet there are many factors that prohibits from taking such a step. In his words
Hamlet: 'Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all...' (Act III. Sc. i)
These confusions and traumatic juxtapositions in Hamlet are very well depicted in his soliloquy "To be or not to be". This is a very famous soliloquy presented in Act III, Scene I of the play. As stated by Hamlet ---
Hamlet: "To be or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 't is 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? To die: to sleep;
No more:"... (Act III. Sc. i)
These lines are still remembered for their beauty and the power to engross the listener or the reader. It is here that we come across the aesthetic sense of dealing with poetry and language by Shakespeare. Shakespeare has been represented here by Hamlet and each single sentence is synchronised with enough rhythmic and poetic elocution. Compositions like 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' illustrated the tired soul in Hamlet. The metaphorical representation of 'arrows' for the pain in him has been noted as a very well composed narrative art. Similarly the use of the word' sleep' represents 'death' here and this too offers the reader with the sense of understanding life and the life that comes after death. The expression of 'perchance' has been used with the sense of ambiguity that dominates the mental indecisiveness in the character.
Hamlet:..."To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the Rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause." (Act III. Sc. i)
The injustice led over Hamlet push him again and again to commit suicide and be free. However, every time he chooses to come out of it alive. The frustration in him takes the shape of vengeance and regular failure to kill himself compels him to choose the way to take revenge.
Eventually, it can be well established tht Shakespeare has very appropriately explored the instances related to the context of suicide. For him the charm of life lies in facing hurdles and that has been established from moral, religious and aesthetic points of views. On philosophical basis, no one can actually choose to continue with pain and hardly can ever care for a life after death. This is the status that creates complexity in Hamlet and he prohibits himself from getting into a decision. For Hamlet, suicide becomes the only way to get rid of his mental traumas, yet it keeps on getting postponed for one reason or another, unless faith decides over Hamlet's death.