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famous quotes from The Bard


To be or not to be ...



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 die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. - Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

--- From Hamlet (III, i, 56-61) Second Quarto


orisons=prayers, bourn=Limit or boundary, fardels=Burdens, his quietus make=Settle his own account, bare bodkin=A "mere dagger",mortal coil=body,

No traveller returns= Since Hamlet has already encountered his father's ghost, and thus proof of the afterlife, this line has raised much debate. There are four major current theories regarding this line:
1) Shakespeare made an egregious error and simply failed to reconcile the appearance of the ghost and Hamlet's belief that human beings do not return;
2) Hamlet has earlier revealed that he doubts the authenticity of the ghost and, therefore, he does not believe his father has truly returned;
3) Hamlet is referring only to human beings returning in the flesh and not as mere shadows of their former selves;
4) the entire soliloquy is misplaced and rightfully belongs before Hamlet has met his father's ghost


(Unlike Hamlet's first two major soliloquies, the third and most famous speech seems to be governed by reason and not frenzied emotion. Unable to do little but wait for completion of his plan to "catch the conscience of the king", Hamlet sparks an internal philosophical debate on the advantages and disadvantages of existence, and whether it is one's right to end his or her own life.


Some scholars limit Hamlet's discussion to a deliberation of whether he should take his own life. "Yet nothing anywhere in the speech relates it to Hamlet's individual case. He uses the pronouns 'we' and 'us', the indefinite 'who', the impersonal infinitive. He speaks explicitly of 'us all', of what 'flesh' is heir to, of what 'we' suffer at the hands of 'time' or 'fortune' - which serves incidentally to indicate what for Hamlet is meant by 'to be'" (Jenkins 489). Hamlet asks the question for all dejected souls -- is it nobler to live miserably or to end one's sorrows with a single stroke? He knows that the answer would be undoubtedly "yes" if death were like a dreamless sleep. The "rub" or obstacle Hamlet faces is the fear of "what dreams may come" (74), i.e. the "dread of something after death" (86). Hamlet is well aware that suicide is condemned by the church as a mortal sin.


Hamlet's soliloquy is interrupted by Ophelia who is saying her prayers. Hamlet addresses her as "Nymph", a courtly salutation common in the Renaissance. Some critics argue that Hamlet's greeting is strained and coolly polite, and his request that she remembers him in her prayers is sarcastic. However, others claim that Hamlet, emerging from his moment of intense personal reflection, genuinely implores the gentle and innocent Ophelia to pray for him.)





The Second Quarto has come to be known as the good quarto – in contrast to the so-called bad quarto, the first known printed version of Shakespeare's play, published in 1603. This First Quarto, regarded by most scholars as a highly suspect text, is little more than half the length of the play we now read and even in what it includes contains many striking differences. Here's the soliloquy from the less refined First Quarto.

Hamlet Soliloquy, Quarto One:

To be or not to be; ay, there's the point.
To die, to sleep: is that all? Ay, all.
No, to sleep, to dream; ay, marry, there it goes.
For in that dream of death, when we awake
And borne before an everlasting judge
From whence no passenger ever returned,
The undiscovered country at whose sight
The happy smile and the accursed damned--
But for this, the joyful hope of this,
Who'd bear the scorns and flattery of the world,
Scorned by the right rich, the rich cursed of the poor,
The widow being oppressed, the orphan wronged,
The taste of hunger or a tyrant's reign,
And thosand more calamaties besides,
To grunt and sweat under this weary life,
When that he may his full quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would this endure,
But for a hope of something after death,
Which puzzles the brain and doth confound the sense,
Which makes us rather bear those evils we have
Than fly to otherw that we know not of?
Ay, that. O, this conscience makes cowards of us all.

***********
bibliography: about.com

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