Skip to main content

To Be or Not to Be; Ay, There's the Point: The Fourth Soliloquy in the Q1 Hamlet

In a previous post, I mentioned the 1603 First Quarto's version of Hamlet's fourth soliloquy, which begins, "To be or not to be—ay, there's the point" and gets stranger from there.

Here it is. (I've modernized the spelling.)
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 thousand more calamities 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 others that we know not of?
Ay, that. O this conscience makes cowards of us all.
And for comparison, here's the more familiar version from the 1604 Second Quarto and 1623 First Folio:
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 heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. 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 disprized 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 undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler 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.


Popular posts from this blog

Accurate List of Hamlet's Soliloquies

Though Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech is his fourth soliloquy, many websites call it his third. They're skipping the twenty-line speech that follows his interview with the Ghost, which in my view is a particularly bad mistake since Hamlet's monomaniacal vow there is at the heart of his tragedy.

The internet's cosmic sinkhole of misinformation will never be filled, but it's worth throwing some dirt in when we can, so here's an accurate list of Hamlet's soliloquies, with a short description of where they occur and what they say, along with a few observations.

Titus Andronicus on YouTube

Julie Taymor directs Anthony Hopkins in Titus.
Scenes from Julie Taymor's 1999 Film
Overimaginated has posted all of Julie Taymor's Titus (1999), with Anthony Hopkins as Titus, Jessica Lange as Tamora, Harry J. Lennix as Aaron, Alan Cumming as Saturninus, Laura Fraser as Lavinia, Colm Feore as Marcus, James Frain as Bassianus, Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Chiron, and Matthew Rhys as Demetrius. Here's a selection from act three, in which Titus tells his sorrows to the stones, and here's the play's gory climax.Other
The Reduced Shakesperare Company does Titus Andronicus as a cooking show

Shakespeare-Movie Soliloquies and Orson Welles's Chimes at Midnight

Directors usually handle Shakespearean soliloquies in three ways: (1) they have actors speak directly to the audience, as they would have on the Elizabethan stage; (2) they have actors speak to the air, as yammering on Bluetooth-enabled cellphones; or (3) they use a voice-over, as if we were wire-tapping the characters' brains.
Each strategy has its advantages.
Speaking directly to the audience works well for villains, who share their nasty schemes, preparing us to watch with horror as they dupe unknowing victims. The technique also allows for dark comedy: for example, Ian McKellan's Richard III and Harry J. Lennix's Aaron (in Julie Taymor's Titus) act as satanic stand-up comedians, terrifying us and making us laugh with the same speech.
Having actors talk to themselves produces a different effect, allowing us to pretend we're hearing a character's inward thoughts. This works in both comedies and tragedies. In a comedy, we laugh—or chuckle inwardly—when we hear Em…