"To be or not to be, that is the question." If you've heard this line once, you've heard it a thousand times. Hamlet is well-known in the English-speaking world and beyond for his deep, thought-provoking soliloquies. When I first read Shakespeare's "Hamlet", what really struck me was the theme of acceptance.
Acceptance did not seem to be at the forefront of Hamlet's mind. He thought again and again about what had happened to him, what destiny had brought, and how he should react. His thoughts were always racing; he could not stand the idea of what had taken place: "How stand I then, / That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd, / Excitements of my reason and my blood, / And let all sleep?" (4.4.56-9) Reflecting on the play, it seemed to me that Hamlet always went back to the same point: this is how it is, but it should not be that way. Existence, life itself, his destiny, how life had come his way, disgusted him: "How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, / Seem to me all the uses of this world! / Fie on’t! ah fie! ‘tis an unweeded garden, / That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature possess it merely." (1.2.133-7) This incapacity to accept reality as it was even leads him to the point of contemplating suicide. He groans, "O, that this too too solid flesh would melt / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! / Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d / His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!" (1.2.129-32) Hamlet was either indecisive on how to act or wanted to run away from reality as he found it, but it was not clear to him the need to first accept reality as it is.
We, too, can find ourselves reflected in Hamlet's anxiety and inability to accept life as it comes. We know that things are a certain way, but when it comes to taking a step, searching how to act, what to do, we go back to the same problem, realizing that we have never accepted the situation in the first place. The protest that escapes us is: "But that is not how it should be!" When reading "Hamlet", we can begin to get a glimpse of a reality in our own lives: the first step is often just acceptance.