At the risk of sounding “cliché-ish”, in answering the question of whether or not I thought the theme of the play was all about a man who could not make up his mind, my answer would be yes. If ever there was a man who contemplated life until it absolutely absorbed him into a pitiful peace-less mind it was Hamlet. The above mentioned cliché is from the ever famous Act III Scene I:
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
‘To be, or not to be’ has been quoted, misquoted, used out of context, and has been said enough that little children will know the line before they know who Hamlet is. However, to further support my answer to the above question, man has contemplated life in many different ways. For Hamlet to say ‘to be, or not to be: that is the question’ is to say he is conveying all that has him perplexed. In those ten words lies more depth of thought than can be demonstrated in the writing of this essay. But, there is hope for mankind in that some have dared to answer the question, rightly translated ‘to live or not to live?’
Is it nobler to think or act? Does the act of thinking, (in the mind to suffer), lessen the blows of life that wealth and fame can bring? Hamlet would say it makes no difference. Hamlet is not the first man to set out to perform a specific task and get side-tracked by so many distractions that grab at the mind like children in a candy store. Is it nobler? One would have to define ‘nobler.’ A good example of his more righteous (nobler) thought was trying to decide, within this same passage, if dying would be a copout to living. If he thought he could be considered a noble man by dying, then he would certainly be obliged to do so. However, there were all those other thoughts nagging at him.
One such thought, sidetrack or interruption is found when he comes into the room where his mother is crying because Claudius is upset with her. The ill Claudius was feeling, though, could not be compared to what Hamlet was feeling. In a scene that can only be described as confusion trying to make sense of chaos, Hamlet manages to kill someone he suspects is Claudius hiding behind the tapestry. In the one moment he decides to act, he blows it royally (no pun intended).
It is worth the mention that Hamlet does get around to doing both what he had revenged to do to Claudius and himself. But, in the end of the play there is the notion that he still could not make up his mind. Laertes forgives Hamlet for his and his father’s death and was also concerned that Hamlet would not blame him either. Hamlet does it as only Hamlet could; in his dying breath, after all the time he spent contemplating life and death he says: “Had I but time—“.