Hamlet (excerpts): To be or not to be, that is the question

Hamlet (excerpts): To be or not to be, that is the question

Original Text

Mr William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (London: Printed by Isaac Jaggard and Ed. Blount, 1623), sig. oo5r (p. 773) / STC (2nd ed.) 22273

2Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
3The slings and arrows of outrageous Fortune,
4Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
5And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep –
6No more. And by a sleep, to say we end
7The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
9Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep –
11For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come
14That makes calamity of so long life:
15For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
17The pangs of disprized love, the law’s delay,
18The insolence of office, and the spurns
19That patient merit of the unworthy takes
22To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
23But that the dread of something after death,
25No traveller returns, puzzles the will
26And makes us rather bear those ills we have
27Than fly to others that we know not of?
28Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
29And thus the native hue of resolution
30Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
32With this regard their currents turn away,
33And lose the name of action.


1] Hamlet’s best known soliloquy appears in the third act of the Folio text. Back to Line
8] consummation: perfection Back to Line
10] rub: obstacle Back to Line
12] mortal coil: life of noise, disturbance, complication Back to Line
13] respect: consideration Back to Line
16] contumely: humiliation Back to Line
20] quietus: legal term referring to an “aquittance or discharge granted on payment of a debt” (OED n. 1) Back to Line
21] bodkin: dagger / fardels: bundles, parcels Back to Line
24] bourn: boundary Back to Line
31] pith and moment: strength and energy Back to Line
Publication Notes

Variations of this speech appear in the first and second quartos of 1603 and 1604.

RPO poem Editors
Christopher Matusiak
RPO Edition