Passages reflecting

Hamlet's Thoughts on Death


Laurence Olivier as Hamlet


"O, that this too too solid flesh would melt / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! (1.2.129-130). At the opening of his first soliloquy, Hamlet expresses a longing for a gentle escape from this world. [Scene Summary]
"I do not set my life at a pin's fee" (1.4.65), says Hamlet when his friends are trying to keep him from following the Ghost. [Scene Summary]
"Into my grave" (2.2.207), replies Hamlet to Polonius' question, "Will you walk out of the air, my lord?" Apparently the chamber is drafty, and Polonius is inviting Hamlet to go to a warmer room, but Hamlet implies that he'd sooner be dead than go anyplace with Polonius. Moments later, Hamlet makes a comment that sounds similar, but expresses a great weariness with life. Polonius says goodbye with the usual polite words, "My lord, I will take my leave of you," and Hamlet replies "You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will willingly part withal: except my life, except my life, except my life" (2.2.215-217). Hamlet means that he is very willing to be free of Polonius, and that he is even more willing to be free of his own life. [Scene Summary]
"To be, or not to be: that is the question" (3.1.55). This, Hamlet's most famous line, opens his third soliloquy, in which he expresses both longing for death and a fear of it. [Scene Summary]
"And now I'll do't. And so he goes to heaven; / And so am I revenged. That would be scann'd. . . ." (3.3.74-75). Thus Hamlet begins talking himself out of killing the King. He is apparently expressing confidence that those in a state of grace will go to heaven. At the same time, he may be rationalizing his reluctance to stab a man in the back. [Scene Summary]
"Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots" (4.3.21-23), says Hamlet, as he mocks the King's attempt to get him to reveal the whereabouts of Polonius' body. Hamlet has just said that Polonius is at "supper," where he is being eaten by worms, and now Hamlet goes into detail about the fate of the human body after death. [Scene Summary]
"That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once" (5.1.75), says Hamlet as he watches the gravedigger shovel up a skull. In the rest of the scene he has much to say--most of it humorous or sarcastic--about the fact that everyone returns to dust, even Alexander the Conqueror. Hamlet reasons thus: "Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?" (5.1.208-212). This is also the scene in which Hamlet jests with the skull of "poor Yorick" (5.1.185), a beloved friend of his childhood. [Scene Summary]
Just before his fatal fencing match with Laertes, Hamlet muses that "there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow" (5.2.219-220). Hamlet has expressed misgivings, and Horatio has offered to say that Hamlet is sick and call off the match, but Hamlet says that it makes no difference when we die, as long as we're ready for death.. [Scene Summary]