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Thread: Suicide in Hamlet

  1. #1

    Suicide in Hamlet

    I was just wondering about some of the instances in Hamlet where any character demonstrated suicide. I know some of the main parts, but i was just wondering if theirs some things that i missed.

  2. #2
    Lady of Smilies Nightshade's Avatar
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    Well just off your in the wong section but never mind hello anyway so 'amlet. Ughh you might elbaorate on what you know I ant say what youve missed till I know what you havent
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  3. #3
    Act 1, Scene 2
    Suicide 1: Wallowing in gloom, Hamlet wishes that his living flesh would melt into nothingness. Life is flat and weary for the melancholy Prince. If God had not ruled suicide a mortal sin, Hamlet would readily escape the uselessness of the world through self-slaughter.
    Act 1, Scene 5
    Suicide 2: Charged with avenging his father's murder, Hamlet curses his luck and laments that he was ever born. Earlier, the suicidal prince wished for death. Now he wishes he had never seen life.
    Act 2, Scene 2
    Suicide 3: Hamlet's melancholy deepens and his suicidal self-hatred grows. The withdrawn Prince no longer feels a desire to be amongst men or women. All is worthless, dead dust to him. Hamlet condemns himself for being a rogue and a pigeon-livered coward. He hates his inactivity and his life.
    Act 3, Scene 3
    Suicide 4: Hamlet wonders whether it is better to live with misery or die with uncertainty. Life is nothing but suffering and enduring fortune's unfair blows.

    Suicide is the ultimate defense against life's troubles. Suicide offers peaceful sleep; but what dreams may interrupt that sleep? Hamlet is afraid of the uncertain afterlife and those unknown nightmares that may be in store. Death offers peace, but the dreaded unknown makes men too cowardly to commit suicide.
    Act 4, Scene 7
    Suicide 5: Ophelia has drowned in a suspected suicide. Driven mad by Polonius' murder and Hamlet's betrayal, Ophelia fell from a willow tree into the river. Without struggle, the singing maiden surrendered to the water and drowned.
    Act 5, Scene 1
    Suicide 6: Because suicide is a mortal sin, the gravediggers wonder whether Ophelia will receive a Christian burial. Ophelia's funeral procession is short and modest. The harsh priest says that her death was suspicious. Without her royal ties, Ophelia would have been buried in unsanctified ground.
    Act 5, Scene 2
    Suicide 7: The culminating suicide is the death of the entire royal clan by its own familial corruption. During the royal massacre, Laertes is slashed with his own poisoned sword. Claudius is killed by his own treacherous plan. Gertrude willfully seizes the chalice that poisons her, and Hamlet dies because his delayed quest for vengeance has led to this final massacre. Denmark has crumbled because the royal family has killed itself through betrayal and vice.


    This is what i know

  4. #4
    No longer confused... Lioness_Heart's Avatar
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    It seems to me that you've got it all pretty much covered. I can't think of any more places where suicide is directly mentioned. Except for possibly the idea of heaven/hell in relation to death etc... possibly the bit where Claudius is praying?... although that's not directly related to suicide really...
    Also, there is a slight ambiguity as to whether Ophelia's death relaly was suicide...

  5. #5
    Cur etiam hic es? Redzeppelin's Avatar
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    At the risk of contradicting the entire thesis of this thread, may I suggest that a wish for death may not necessarily mean that Hamlet desires to actively kill himself (which is the definition of "suicide"). Hamlet wants to be done with the pain of life - that is true, but I think he is more likely looking at life as tedious and difficult, and death as release from these things. But as to an actual desire to kill himself? I think many people in dire circumstances wish for the release of death, but if you offered them a chance to kill themselves they'd say "no - I don't want to instigate my death - I just wish I weren't here anymore, dealing with this pain."

    But perhaps I'm just hair-splitting here).
    "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." - C.S. Lewis

  6. #6
    There is some question as to whether Ophelia commits suicide. Gertrude describes her death as an accident, but one grave digger announces that her death was "doubtful" (possibly suicide), and she is denied full burial rites by the church on the suspicion of suicide--possibly merely "passive" suicide in that she did nothing to prevent her death once she is in danger.

  7. #7
    Cur etiam hic es? Redzeppelin's Avatar
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    Right - one of the great mysteries of the play is the nature of Ophelia's death. We are given contradictory reports - one from Getrude, another from the clergy. Who's right? The "maimed rights" suggest that the clergy had their way (with some mitigation from Claudius, apparently a posthumous favor for Polonious and the distraught Laertes). Why would Shakespeare do this? What is gained or lost by having Ophelia's death under questionable circumstances? Was Getrude lying?

    Either way, I don't think Hamlet desired suicide.
    "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." - C.S. Lewis

  8. #8
    Woo! PolarTucan's Avatar
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    I think that when Hamlet jumps into Ophelia’s grave it foreshadows his death. The same is true for Ophelia’s brother.... And he jumped in on his own free will to prove his love to her, so was he condoning his own death with that act? Maybe that’s reading into it too much… but its an idea.
    -Amelia
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Redzeppelin View Post
    Right - one of the great mysteries of the play is the nature of Ophelia's death. We are given contradictory reports - one from Getrude, another from the clergy. Who's right? ...
    Gertrude's right, of course, and it isn't that big a mystery. Gertrude reports the fact of how Ophelia died. That's why Gertrude's speech is in the play, to inform the audience of the fact. The coroner agrees, as we see later.

    Then we see the sexton Clown only repeating something he's heard. He doesn't really know anything about it. The point of what the sexton Clown says, is how rumor spreads among people who don't really know anything.

    The sexton Clown tells contrived jokes with the malicious intent to make his friend look foolish, he calls his friend a jackass, and he demands liquor, while he's supposed to be working. And people are supposed to trust what he says? It's surprising anybody ever took what he said seriously. The sexton is a blowhard Clown character, who's spreading malicious gossip.

    People should notice that "clown" is exactly what the sexton is called in the original printing of Hamlet, in Shakespeare's own time. He's not a character to take seriously.

  10. #10
    Rina Rinas_Jaded's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PolarTucan View Post
    I think that when Hamlet jumps into Ophelia’s grave it foreshadows his death. The same is true for Ophelia’s brother.... And he jumped in on his own free will to prove his love to her, so was he condoning his own death with that act? Maybe that’s reading into it too much… but its an idea.
    -Amelia
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    count. It's the life
    in your years.


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  11. #11
    Rina Rinas_Jaded's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amleth View Post
    Gertrude's right, of course, and it isn't that big a mystery. Gertrude reports the fact of how Ophelia died. That's why Gertrude's speech is in the play, to inform the audience of the fact. The coroner agrees, as we see later.

    Then we see the sexton Clown only repeating something he's heard. He doesn't really know anything about it. The point of what the sexton Clown says, is how rumor spreads among people who don't really know anything.

    The sexton Clown tells contrived jokes with the malicious intent to make his friend look foolish, he calls his friend a jackass, and he demands liquor, while he's supposed to be working. And people are supposed to trust what he says? It's surprising anybody ever took what he said seriously. The sexton is a blowhard Clown character, who's spreading malicious gossip.

    People should notice that "clown" is exactly what the sexton is called in the original printing of Hamlet, in Shakespeare's own time. He's not a character to take seriously.
    I didn't know that. Always good to be informed. Thank-you for the information.
    And in the end
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    count. It's the life
    in your years.


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  12. #12
    Cur etiam hic es? Redzeppelin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amleth View Post
    Gertrude's right, of course, and it isn't that big a mystery. Gertrude reports the fact of how Ophelia died. That's why Gertrude's speech is in the play, to inform the audience of the fact. The coroner agrees, as we see later.
    I beg to differ, sir. Gertrude's story is at odds with the priest's insistence that the circumstances of Opelia's death were in question and that the "maimed rites" she was receiving were already stretching the bounds of what the church permitted. The grave diggers are repeating "what they've heard" but the priest confirms this - and the implication is that Claudius may well have put pressure on the clergy to give Polonious' daughter a decent burial.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amleth View Post
    Then we see the sexton Clown only repeating something he's heard. He doesn't really know anything about it. The point of what the sexton Clown says, is how rumor spreads among people who don't really know anything.
    There is no reason for Shakespeare to have the grave diggers expound upon this point for that reason. Shakespeare doen't have conversations that reinforce later statements in order to illustrate an unrelated topic; the play has nothing to do with how rumors spread; it has a lot to do with appearances and what "seems" to be true about people. That Ophelia was mad due largely to her father's death and Hamlet's utter rejection of her lends credibility to the idea that she may indeed have (unwittingly) killed herself - which may explain the "maimed rites."

    Quote Originally Posted by Amleth View Post
    The sexton Clown tells contrived jokes with the malicious intent to make his friend look foolish, he calls his friend a jackass, and he demands liquor, while he's supposed to be working. And people are supposed to trust what he says? It's surprising anybody ever took what he said seriously. The sexton is a blowhard Clown character, who's spreading malicious gossip.
    You're psycholanalyzing literary characters as if they're real people; careful: fiction obeys certain rules that reality does not. You have no evidence that the sexton is spreading untruths; gossip, perhaps, but give some evidence that his gossip is a lie.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amleth View Post
    People should notice that "clown" is exactly what the sexton is called in the original printing of Hamlet, in Shakespeare's own time. He's not a character to take seriously.
    "Clown" in Elizabethan parlance means "rustic." Not, as you seem to imply, "buffoon."
    "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." - C.S. Lewis

  13. #13

    Suicide

    Suicide is only tangential in the play touched on at various points to further other motifs or themes. It's not a character issue for Hamlet nor is it thematic to the play.

    At the end of the play, Horatio makes a statement about being an antique roman and dying alongside Hamlet. This serves as a prompt for Hamlet's final wish that Horatio "draw thy breath in pain to tell [his] story." Which, as Prince Fortinbras closes the play, he is keen to hear and see the performance.

    Ophelia's death as doubtful serves as a final tragedy on Shakespeare's most tragical character. It also continues a motif of casting catholicism in an extremely ill light, highlighting its rigidity and corruption.

    Hamlet references suicide in his first and fourth soliloquies. The first time he is speaking symbolically of the depths of his dispair. The auxesis in the first soliloquy has the allusion to Richard II, where Richard dispairs at the loss of the crown.

    In the 3.1 soliloquy, Hamlet is in the abstract contrasting the ease of death with its difficulty.

    Neither of these two references can be considered suicidal ideation on the part of Hamlet.

  14. #14
    Cur etiam hic es? Redzeppelin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim58 View Post
    Suicide is only tangential in the play touched on at various points to further other motifs or themes. It's not a character issue for Hamlet nor is it thematic to the play.

    At the end of the play, Horatio makes a statement about being an antique roman and dying alongside Hamlet. This serves as a prompt for Hamlet's final wish that Horatio "draw thy breath in pain to tell [his] story." Which, as Prince Fortinbras closes the play, he is keen to hear and see the performance.

    Ophelia's death as doubtful serves as a final tragedy on Shakespeare's most tragical character. It also continues a motif of casting catholicism in an extremely ill light, highlighting its rigidity and corruption.

    Hamlet references suicide in his first and fourth soliloquies. The first time he is speaking symbolically of the depths of his dispair. The auxesis in the first soliloquy has the allusion to Richard II, where Richard dispairs at the loss of the crown.

    In the 3.1 soliloquy, Hamlet is in the abstract contrasting the ease of death with its difficulty.

    Neither of these two references can be considered suicidal ideation on the part of Hamlet.
    Well said, but I think Hamlet's reference in his first soliloquy does seem to suggest suicide:

    HAMLET
    O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
    Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
    Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
    His canon 'gainst self-slaughter!


    Personally, I don't think Hamlet would really kill himself, but he seems (in this very emotional moment) to consider the relief it might bring.
    "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." - C.S. Lewis

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Redzeppelin View Post
    Hamlet's reference in his first soliloquy does seem to suggest suicide
    Taking Hamlet's words on their face, yes, he speaks of suicide. But these are words of an immature mind that convey more a desperation and hopelessness than intent or ideation. Claudius has been fairly brutal with Hamlet in the first half of 1.2 and Gertrude isn't giving Hamlet much sympathy. Obviously, Claudius' aim is to dispel any notion that Hamlet should have succeeded to the throne. Claudius, has usurped the crown from his brother and from Hamlet's perspective, he has usurped it from him. There is a parallel here and thus the allusion to the circumstance of Shakespeare's Richard II, the boy king, losing his crown to his cousin Henry Bolingbroke. This from Richard in his dispair after being relieved of his crown:

    NORTHUMBERLAND
    My lord,--
    RICHARD II
    No lord of thine, thou haught insulting man,
    Nor no man's lord! I have no name, no title-
    No, not that name was given me at the font-
    But 'tis usurp'd. Alack the heavy day,
    That I have worn so many winters out
    And know not now what name to call myself.
    O that I were a mockery king of snow,
    Standing before the sun of Bolingbroke,
    To melt myself away in water-drops!
    4.1.253

    And then in the next scene at 5.1.1 Richards's wife
    meets him as he is conveyed to the Tower:

    QUEEN
    This way the king will come. This is the way
    To Julius Caesar's ill-erected tower,
    To whose flint bosom my condemned lord
    Is doom'd a prisoner by proud Bolingbroke.
    Here let us rest, if this rebellious earth
    Have any resting for her true king's queen.
    (Enter Richard II and Guard)
    But soft, but see, or rather do not see
    My fair rose wither. Yet look up, behold,
    That you in pity may dissolve to dew,
    And wash him fresh again with true-love tears.
    (emphasis added)

    Hamlet's first soliloquy begins in youthful hyperbole (more precisely auxesis) that is an abstract notion of death, the reality to which Shakespeare slowly develops in Hamlet. By the end of the play how does Hamlet see death? As dew drops? No, we all resolve to dust. The greats like Julius Caesar and Alexander and the small like Yorick, the king's jester. All that's left is their memory.

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