What Does Hamlet Mean By “Shuffled Off This Mortal Coil”?

Hamlet muses about “shuffling off this earthly coil” in his soliloquy “To be or not to be.” The phrase refers to dying and escaping from life’s problems.

Detailed answer:

In Hamlet’s soliloquy, “To be or not to be,” he contemplates whether or not he should kill himself. He compares death to sleep and speculates on what may happen during the afterlife if we die. He refers to life as a misery filled with health ailments and “a thousand natural shocks.” We “shuffle off this mortal coil” by dying. In other words, we give up our day-to-day worries and all of mankind’s troubles.

Several meanings for the phrase “shuffled off this mortal coil” have been proposed by researchers. The most popular explanation is that the term ‘coil,’ or ‘coyle,’ meant something like “bustle” or “fUSS.” The idiom meaning “to leave the bustle and commotion of this earthly existence” is idiomaticly written as, “I shuffled off this mortal coil.”

Some researchers suggest that the line “Shuffle off, my only friend” alludes to a snake shedding its dead skin. Then, “mortal coil,” in this context means the physical body of a human being that we leave when we die. Snakes shuffle themselves out of their old skin to become something fresh. When we die, we are reborn into a new existence like snakes do after shuffling themselves out of their old skin. The spirit’s covering is likened to the man’s flesh and body.

The words also have spiritual connotations. It alludes to the Christian notion of eternal life after death. The uncertainty of what comes next after death is Hamlet’s primary motivation for enduring his existence.

Hamlet is in a terrible mood. His father died, and his mother ran off to marry his uncle Claudius as soon as possible. To make matters worse, his dear old father’s ghost has appeared and informed him that his uncle murdered him to take the crown. Gasp!

Hamlet can’t accuse his uncle Claudius of murder and treason without any evidence, now can he? What would he say? “A ghost informed me”? Yes, that will work. No matter what, Hamlet is in a tight spot. He considers whether to take revenge on his uncle in order to avenge his father’s death or to wait and see what happens. So he comes up with a little plan to throw everyone off the trail.

It may sound ludicrous, but it works. Everyone gets perplexed and wonders if Hamlet has gone insane. Polonius believes it’s because Hamlet is in love with Ophelia that he’s acting strangely. Claudius isn’t convinced. So the two men devised a plan to catch Hamlet.

The two men use Ophelia as bait to get Hamlet to talk. The two guys will hide and wait to see what happens when Hamlet encounters Ophelia, attempting to determine if he’s been driven insane by love or something else entirely. Poor Ophelia. She genuinely loves Hamlet and must now deceive him. When Hamlet approaches, everyone evacuates so that he may deliver one of the greatest speeches in history privately. What is the question? “To be, or not to be.””

In his rambling, we learn of Hamlet’s interest in life and death. Throughout his soliloquies (which are simply speeches delivered when no one else is on stage), Hamlet is generally contemplating suicide. He compares death to a little sleep, which he believes would not be so terrible, in this soliloquy. The only problem is that we may have nightmares after we die—horrible dreams.

Of course, as individuals who are no longer alive, we’d be spared a lot of things, such as being rejected in love. This is the whole “slings and arrows” thing. He’s implying that being in love is comparable to being hit with hundreds of arrows because it causes so much agony. Hamlet feels betrayed by his mother for getting remarried so soon after his father’s death. And to the murderer of his father. He wishes he could just get rid of his “mortal coil” (or body) and perish immediately. Yikes, this guy isn’t having a good day at all.

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