(u3a) 15 Nov: TO BE OR NOT TO BE



Act III, Scene 1

Elsinore. A room in the Castle.

Original text:

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. It is 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,
Th’ 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 these 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 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 pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.-

 Modern text

The question is this: is it better to be alive or dead?

Is it nobler to put up with/suffer all the nasty things

that luck throws your way,

or to fight against all those troubles

by simply putting an end to them once and for all? Dying, sleeping

—that’s all dying is—a sleep that ends

all the heartache and shocks

that life on earth gives us—that’s an achievement

to wish for. To die, to sleep—

to sleep, maybe to dream. Ah, but there’s the problem:

in death’s sleep nobody knows what kind of dreams might come,

 after we’ve put the noise and disorder of life behind us.

That’s certainly something

 to worry about. That’s the consideration

 that makes us stretch out/prolong  our sufferings so long.

 After all, who would put up with all life’s humiliations—

the abuse from superiors, the insults of arrogant men,

the pains  of unreturned love, the inefficiency of the legal system,

the rudeness of people in office, and the mistreatment

good people have to take from bad

when you could simply take out your knife

and free yourselves? Who would choose

to grunt and sweat through an exhausting life,

unless they were afraid of something dreadful after death,

the undiscovered country from which

no visitor returns, which disconcerts our minds a

and makes us bear the evils we know

rather than rush off  to seek others we don’t?

 Fear of death makes us all cowards,

and our natural boldness

becomes weak with too much thinking.

And actions  of great nobility and importance (that should be carried out at once)

For these reasons are deviated

and stop being actions at all.

 In the  soliloquy, Hamlet contemplates death and suicide,  complaining  about the pain and unfairness of life but acknowledging that the alternative might be worse. The speech shows Hamlet’s hesitation to directly and immediately avenge his father s murder .


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