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!
In these lines, Hamlet reveals his suicidal thoughts. He wishes that he would evaporate into nothing or that God had not forbid suicide.
In Elizabethan times suicide was believed to be a one way ticket to Hell, which in Hamlet’s mind would have been slightly worse than living with his mother and stepfather.
The idea of a suicidal Hamlet, though, is by no means agreed upon by all scholars. Hamlet could be merely be in mourning for his father, and be wishing he had the ability to disappear, rather than listen to the flattery of courtiers and deal with his mother’s “o'erhasty marriage."
The line about "self-slaughter” certainly seems to lend itself to an interpretation of a suicidal Hamlet, but coming on the heels of such poetic images as his wishing he were capable of melting and turning into dew, it is possible that he is merely being dramatic. Just a thought.
Meanwhile, the reading “too, too solid flesh” is not agreed upon, either. The First Folio reads “solid flesh,” while the Second Quarto has “sallied flesh.” Some modern editors have favored a reading not found in either F1 or Q2: “sullied flesh.” Those who prefer sallied understand Hamlet to be feeling set upon by forces out of his control, while those who favor sullied seem to think he is feeling tainted by his mother’s inappropriate relationship with his uncle.
To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit “Hamlet Act 1 Scene 2” by William Shakespeare and leave a comment on the lyrics box