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To be or not to be Prince Hamlet Hamlet III i 105 The most notable line by Hamlet in William Shakespeares play Hamlet is To be or not to be that is the question Hamlets statement defines the central theme of the play and provides the reader with insight into Hamlets psychological dilemma His self-inquiry is a projection of what will occur in the play Again and again Shakespeare brings us back to Hamlets plight can he act or is he paralyzed by cowardice Throughout the play Hamlet is unable to come to a concrete resolution of avenging his fathers death whether to kill Claudius and reconciling himself to his mother marrying his uncle Hamlets indecisive personality determines how he deals with these issues At the very outset of the play Barnardo sets the stage by posing the question Whos there Ii3 Little does the reader know at this time that this question will be repeatedly asked in different forms throughout the play Who is Hamlet And does Hamlet really know who he is himself Will the real Hamlet step forward and be a decisive and righteous avenger of his fathers death or will he be a timid and irresolute fumbler unable to make up his mind about matters of life and death Before Hamlet poses the identity-defining To be or not to be question the ghost of his late father confronts him IIIi105 His fathers spirit informs Hamlet that The serpent that did sting thy fathers lifeNow wears his crown I v 35-39 Hamlet is now cognizant that his fathers life was not taken by a wild beast but by his own brother Claudius The strange appearance of his fathers ghost should have been enough to motivate Hamlet to action But Hamlets indecisive nature causes him to hesitate and satisfy himself through investigation that Claudius was his fathers murderer and usurper of his mother If Hamlet had
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