The Movement of a Mind
A mind includes all aspects of intellect and consciousness manifested as combinations of
thought, perception, memory, emotion, and will. The mind controls and is controlled. It
deciphers and foresees, tricks and punishes, perceives and opens. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet
protagonist Hamlet often appears in situations and scenes which require extensive use of the
mind for vital decision making. Perhaps the most heard or popular line in the entire English
canon fits: “To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer …”
In order to make sense of life as it occurs for Hamlet, the protagonist is required to use
his mind to question, to convince himself, and to make clearer. Through the use of honed
language Shakespeare demonstrates the movement of Hamlet’s mind in his soliloquy occurring
in Act 3 of the play.
In beginning the soliloquy, Hamlet poses a literal yet metaphysical question of great
importance. “To be or not to be, that is the question” (1616). Initially, common analyses tend to
suggest that the line refers to simply living or dying, existing or not existing. However, upon
closer inspection it appears that the language illustrated was chosen much more carefully.
Hamlet is reasoning with his mind in more ways than one. While he may be filled with extensive
thought, he simply asks a question of six simple words, all with three letters or less. It can be
inferred that Shakespeare made reference to these words so as to keep things in context with a
young man’s outward thoughts. The very simple “to be” verb is utilized – a verb that languages
universally rely so heavily on. After this, the verb is then said again in the infinitive, “to be”,
rather than tacking it on to any detailed noun or pronoun (not even Hamlet’s own “I”).
Corresponding it on the other side of “or” is a simple opposite phrase, the same verb with a one