Hamlet: A Hope of Heaven, or a Dread of Death? 12th Grade

A common interpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, based on the widely read Folio edition of the text, is that the titular character is motivated by darkness, exhibiting depression and suicidal tendencies. The young prince often refers to suicide, and his soliloquies contain language that indicates that thoughts of death and suicide heavily impact his mentality. However, despite his contemplation, Hamlet ultimately decides against taking his own life. To fully understand Hamlet’s motivations, one must analyze his lines across different editions of the play, and it is from this analysis that an interesting conclusion begins to unfold. In the First Quarto edition, Hamlet, though he utters many similar lines concerned with death and the afterlife, is not the same dark, depressed character as the Folio text would suggest.

Seemingly small differences in lines show a significant variance between the two versions—there exists a stark contrast in Hamlet’s motivations and way of thinking between the First Quarto and Folio editions of the text. In the First Quarto, Hamlet is motivated by an optimistic sense of religious belief, driven by his hope for a better future, while in the Folio text, his unwillingness to actually commit suicide...

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