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Summary: What Makes a Life Worth Living

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Hamlet was a tragedy written by William Shakespeare and deals with a young prince of Denmark learning of the murderer of his father and his struggle to act and avenge the late king’s death while dealing with his family. Despite the constant pain Robert Ebert is in, the many surgeries he has gone through, and the cancer that won’t seem to go away, he has remained optimistic and glad to be alive. In Amanda Ripley’s, ‘What’s a Life Worth?’ she dives into the 9/11 federal Victim Compensation Fund, the country’s largest experiment in paying mass victims and their families without placing blame. The value of life is whatever you determine it is through your mindset and perspective of life itself. You choose how you value life. There is no materialistic value such as money, just positivity and optimism. Remember, you decide whether you want to be a Hamlet, or a Roger Ebert.

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In Act 1, Scene 5, Hamlet’s shock and revelation after his encounter with his father’s ghost caused thoughts of revenge to enter his mind as well as conflicting thoughts of whether or not he should kill Claudius, the one who murdered his father. In Act 1, Scene 5, Hamlet exclaims,’O most pernicious woman! O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!(Act 1, Scene 5, line 106-107)’ This quote gives a feeling of anger and hatred as Hamlet is furious to find out his mother and uncle involved in the murder of Hamlet’s father. At this point in time, he despises his mother for being so hasty to marry the snake that killed the late King Hamlet; also Hamlet wants to kill Claudius for killing his father. Right now Hamlet’s mindset is to follow the directions given to him by the ghost, and now, he plans to take action. In Hamlet’s soliloquy in Scene 5 of Act 1, he expresses the following: ‘O all you host of heaven! O earth what else? And shall I couple hell? O, fie! — Hold, my heart; And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,But bear me stiffly up. — Remember thee! Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat In this distracted globe. Remember thee!(lines 93-98).’ This portrays Hamlet as a distraught and surprised character once he realizes that his uncle was a so-called ‘serpent’ that killed his brother for his crown. Hamlet is also confused about what he should do, follow his father’s directions or live with the secret forever. This uncertainty plagues Hamlet throughout the rest of the play as he goes back and forth in his mind on what he plans to do about Claudius and Gertrude.

While we know that Hamlet has a very negative perspective on life, there is someone who has the exact opposite to give us hope. His name is Roger Ebert, a famous movie critic who lost his jaw to cancer, which stripped him of his ability to eat, drink, and speak. But, as shown in an article about him called, ‘Roger Ebert: The Essential Man’ by Chris Jones, he has an extremely positive outlook on life. He says… ‘I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. 

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