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Soliloquies Essay – The Meaning of Hamlet’s Soliloquy

The Meaning of Hamlet’s Soliloquy

“To be or not to be that is the question” (III.i l 56) This is one of the most often recited lines in all the works of Shakespeare. However, very few people have any idea of its the true meaning. While the phrase sounds simply intelligent, and philosophical, it is important to explore the meaning it holds in the play. The speech in its entirety reveals that Hamlet is considering his suicide. It is a pondering which is reflective of all the troubles Hamlet has encountered thus far in the play, and what he should do about it. He ponders ending his life, and the nobility of that decision.

“Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”

(Shakespeare, III.i l 56)

The slings and arrows Hamlet has encountered have driven him to contemplate suicide. He feels that what is happening is simply too much to endure, so suicide may be a better way of overcoming his troubles than to end them by taking action.

“Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

and by opposing end them.”

(III.i l 58)

One of these forces which is driving Hamlet to the edge is the activity of his mother. Just a few days after the funeral of her former husband of supposed one true love, She marries his brother and successor to the throne.

“Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats

Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.”

(I.ii l 180)

This is considered by Hamlet to be a dishonor to his father, and by Hamlet and the audience of the time to be contemptible, incestuous behavior. He loves his mother a great deal, and wants to protect her from the King. She may be “quick to …

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…Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.

Mack, Maynard. “The World of Hamlet.” Yale Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

Maher, Mary Z.. “An Actor Works at Connecting with His Audience.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from Modern Hamlets and Their Soliloquies. Iowa City: University of Iowa P., 1992. p.71-72.

Rosenberg, Marvin. “Laertes: An Impulsive but Earnest Young Aristocrat.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Masks of Hamlet. Newark, NJ: Univ. of Delaware P., 1992.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995.

Mother-daughter Relations and Clash of Cultures in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

Amy Tan is an American Born Chinese, daughter of immigrants, and her family shares many features with the families depicted in her novels. Tan’s novels offer some glimpses of life in China while developing the themes of mother-daughter relations, cultural adaptation and “women with a past”. Tan’s novels share many themes and elements, but this paper will focus mainly on two episodes of the novel The Joy Luck Club: “The Joy Luck Club” and “Waiting Between the Trees”; and will make references to The Kitchen’s God Wife and The Hundred Secret Senses.

In the first place, mother-daughter relations between Chinese mothers and ABC daughters are not easy ones in Tan’s novels. They are always problematic. Mothers want to bring up their children according to the Chinese ways, whereas daughters want to live their own life according to the “American Way of Life”, despising Chinese habits and traditions, sometimes to the extent of being ashamed of their origins. Amy Tan herself confessed that, as a child, she used to put “a clothespin on her nose hoping to make it pert, to change its Asian shape.”

In “Waiting Between the Trees,” Lena St. Clair sees her mother, Ying-Ying as a weak-minded woman who needs constant help. This impression is aroused by Ying- Ying’s traditional Chinese female education. In Ying- Ying’s times, women used to be educated to be obedient, to honor one’s parents, one’s husband and to try to please him and his family. This education is based on Confucius’s teachings: during her life a woman has to follow three persons during her whole life: at home, she has to follow her father; married, she has to follow her husband; and when her husband dies, she has to follow her son. Therefore a woman is not supp…

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…hers and daughters which have their source in a clash of cultures. In her novels, she reflects Chinese history, traditions, education and superstition, together with may experiences takes from her family history, all of which provides a convincing representation directly inspired in the real everyday life of the Chinese colony in the United States.

Works Cited

Tan, Amy (1989). The Joy Luck Club. New York: Ivy Books.

— (1991). The Kitchen God’s Wife. New York: Ivy Books.

— (1995). The Hundred Secret Senses. New York: Ivy Books.

Ng, Mei (1998). Eating Chinese Food Naked. Harmondsworth: Penguin.


Liu, Ping (1997). Adjusting to a New Society: A Study of Educated Chinese Women:

Interview with Amy Tan: The Joy Luck Club Lady:

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