How did King Hamlet Die: Exploring the Theme of Suicide

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Updated: Aug 16, 2023
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In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, suicide is one of the main themes throughout the play. The story begins with the murder of his father; Hamlet is the main character who thinks about committing suicide many times throughout the play. Hamlet weighs the advantages of leaving his miserable life; his derelict thoughts are that most of humanity would commit suicide and escape the hard parts of life but do not because they don’t know what awaits them in the afterlife.

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Hamlet is continually tormented by his father’s death throughout the play. Hamlet and Ophelia are the two main characters who are involved in suicide, although Hamlet never goes through with it, and the only one who contemplates is Ophelia, who does commit suicide in Act 4.

Hamlet’s Internal Struggle

Hamlet continues on and almost complains about the state of the world, calling it stale, flat, and unprofitable, showing how truly miserable his life is. Hamlet considers suicide as a possible option for escape from his life in a painful world but feels that his religion is preventing him from doing so. Hamlet provides us with the roots of his pain and the reason for his thoughts of suicide.
Hamlet is troubled by his mother’s marriage to his uncle Claudius, mainly by how quickly the two were married after his father’s death. He continues to express his dislike and hatred for Claudius while praising his father and saying how excellent of a king his father was. In one of the final lines of the soliloquy, Hamlet comments on how marriage is a bad omen for Denmark. In this part of the play, we are, for the first time, introduced to the idea of suicide, which continues to present itself as the play develops.

When Hamlet is set up and spied on by Claudius and Polonius, he examines the moral aspects of suicide in the painful Word he’s living in. He opens his monologue by asking a simple yet very important and very famous question, “To be, or not to be: that is the question, “that is, whether to live or to die. In this part, Hamlet makes us believe that he may really commit suicide. He then begins to question whether it is nobler to suffer life or to take it and end his suffering. He compares death to sleep. In one of the quotes, we see Hamlet comparing two things without the use of like or as. We can see Hamlet comparing his problems with a sea large and endless. Hamlet uses metaphor in which the quote focuses on the fears about what lies beyond death. He compares death to an undercover county, and this fact tells us that Hamlet sees death as something unknown.


We also see the irony which occurs when the audience knows something that the characters do not. In Hamlet, one of the major examples of dramatic irony is the fact that Hamlet, the Ghost, and the audience all know the truth about his father’s death, but the other characters do not. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony numerous times throughout the play in order to underscore motifs of mischief, deception, and distrust.
At the beginning of the play, Hamlet shows much desire and infatuation with death and suicide. We can see the more the play goes on; Hamlet starts to realize the truth behind suicide and what it really means to end your life. We see him change his attitude and opinion once he watches the people around him end their life or die. Hamlet sees how hard it was for him to lose his father and how easily people forget about him, and it’s here when he realizes he does not want to suffer the same fate. He thinks just because he goes through some hard times; he should not end the good future he could possibly have.


  1. Shakespeare, William. “Hamlet.” The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Project Gutenberg,
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How Did King Hamlet Die: Exploring the Theme of Suicide. (2023, Aug 10). Retrieved from