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To be or not to be?  But is that the question?

To be or not to be? But is that the question?

Chances are high that when you hear the words, “to be or not to be”, you imagine Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, externally debating the merits of living against the relief of dying.  But is Hamlet really contemplating taking his own life?  Or is there a different perspective, one we haven’t considered because we’ve taken on an ‘expert’s analysis’?

Here are my thoughts.

Hamlet is depressed.  Let’s be real though, his father died unexpectedly and his mother married his uncle; surely depression is a natural human response.  To add to the mix, his father’s ghost confides that he was murdered. So, Hamlet definitely has a question:  What do I do about that?

The arrival of a group of thespians gives him an idea.  They could present a play that discloses his uncle’s treachery.  They even agree to include Hamlet’s own addition. All of this immediately precedes Hamlet’s famous soliloquy.

Given he’s just been presented with an opportunity to right a heinous wrong, is he truly contemplating taking his own life? I don’t think so.  I think the question isn’t whether he wants to live, it’s how he wants to live.

Hamlet’s intelligent.  He knows what will happen if he exposes his uncle. All hell will break loose. Life, as he has known it, will be forever altered. But would he get greater peace of mind from saying nothing?

Hamlet then talks about life and death.  That’s the surface level.  Could it be though, that Shakespeare was smarter than that?  What if he was giving us the opportunity to dive beneath the superficial? 

If we’re talking about how we live, perhaps life as Hamlet defines it in this speech is about following our hearts and death is not following our hearts?  Perhaps, ‘that undiscover’d land from which no traveller returns’ is a soulful existence because who can return to the mundane once they’ve tasted the thrill of truly following your heart.

But, of course, people are people.  We have ideas, awesome ideas, soulfulling ideas…that we over-think and that overthinking stops us from doing what our souls are calling for us to do.  And that’s okay, that’s human nature.  We can’t beat ourselves up for that. 

For me, Hamlet, having contemplated taking the action he knows to be right, has all but convinced himself that it’s human for him to choose silence.

And just as he’s made that decision, he sees Ophelia, the woman he loves and damn it all, he realizes that while he might be able to live with not taking action, he cannot expect Ophelia to love such a man.  When he asks that all his sins be remembered, for me, he’s not talking about sins in the religious sense of the word, he’s asking to be remembered as a man of substance, a man who stood up for what he believed in.

Whether you agree or disagree with my interpretation, it is a point-of-view.  It’s a little explored point-of-view, maybe even an unpopular point-of-view.

The thing for me though, it that it makes more sense given what comes before it.  It also confers a deeper meaning – which I love.  The most difficult decision of life isn’t whether or not to live, it’s how to live.  Do we do what’s right for us or do we mould ourselves to society’s expectations?  Do we even pause for long enough to hear what our souls are desperately trying to tell us?

These are questions that only we, as individuals, can answer for ourselves, no mass announcement, no media release, no celebrity gurus, just our unfiltered truth.

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