home contact
Hamlet's Soliloquy: To be, or not to be: that is the question (3.1)


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 (70)
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 despis'd love, the law's delay, (80)
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? (90)
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.-- Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

Continue to Soliloquy Analysis


Even More...

 Hamlet's Silence
 An Excuse for Doing Nothing: Hamlet's Delay
 Foul Deeds Will Rise: Hamlet and Divine Justice
 Defending Claudius - The Charges Against the King
 Shakespeare's Fools: The Grave-Diggers in Hamlet

 Hamlet's Humor: The Wit of Shakespeare's Prince of Denmark
 All About Yorick
 Hamlet's Melancholy: The Transformation of the Prince
 Hamlet's Antic Disposition: Is Hamlet's Madness Real?

 The Significance of the Ghost in Armor
 The Significance of Ophelia's Flowers
 Ophelia and Laertes
 Mistrusted Love: Ophelia and Polonius

 Divine Providence in Hamlet
 What is Tragic Irony?
 Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
 Shakespeare's Sources for Hamlet

 Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy
 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers

 Daily Life in Shakespeare's London
 Life in Stratford (structures and guilds)
 Life in Stratford (trades, laws, furniture, hygiene)
 Stratford School Days: What Did Shakespeare Read?

 Games in Shakespeare's England [A-L]
 Games in Shakespeare's England [M-Z]
 An Elizabethan Christmas
 Clothing in Elizabethan England

 Queen Elizabeth: Shakespeare's Patron
 King James I of England: Shakespeare's Patron
 The Earl of Southampton: Shakespeare's Patron
 Going to a Play in Elizabethan London

 Ben Jonson and the Decline of the Drama
 Publishing in Elizabethan England
 Shakespeare's Audience
 Religion in Shakespeare's England

 Alchemy and Astrology in Shakespeare's Day
 Entertainment in Elizabethan England
 London's First Public Playhouse
 Shakespeare Hits the Big Time

Points to Ponder

In his book Shakespearean Tragedy, A. C. Bradey notes that "The present position of the 'To be or not to be' soliloquy, and of the interview with Ophelia, appears to have been due to an after-thought of Shakespeare's; for in the First Quarto they precede, instead of following, the arrival of the players, and consequently the arrangement for the play-scene. This is a notable instance of the truth that 'inspiration' is by no means confined to a poet's first conceptions." Does the position of Hamlet's soliloquy make a difference? More on this subject...
More to Explore

 Hamlet: The Complete Play with Explanatory Notes
 Extensive Analysis of Act 2, Scene 2
 The Hamlet and Ophelia Subplot
 The Norway Subplot in Hamlet

 Hamlet Basics
 Hamlet: Plot Summary with Key Passages
 Analysis of the Characters in Hamlet
 Deception in Hamlet
 Problem Plays and Revenge Tragedy


Shakespeare and Montaigne ... In writing Hamlet, Shakespeare is said to have been influenced by the work of French essayist, Michael de Montaigne, translated by an acquaintance of Shakespeare named John Florio. Montagine's essays on moral philosophy might have shaped many passages in Hamlet, including Hamlet's most famous soliloquy. Could Montaigne be the reason the first and second quartos of the play are so different, especially regarding Hamlet's propensity to delay? Read more about Shakespeare, Montaigne and Hamlet.


 The Purpose of The Murder of Gonzago
 The Dumb-Show: Why Hamlet Reveals his Knowledge to Claudius
 Hamlet's Relationship with the Ghost
 Philological Examination Questions on Hamlet

 Quotations from Hamlet (with commentary)
 Hamlet Study Quiz (with detailed answers)
 Analysis of I am sick at heart (1.1)
 Hamlet: Q & A

 Soliloquy Analysis: O this too too... (1.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!... (2.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: To be, or not to be... (3.1)
Soliloquy Analysis: Tis now the very witching time of night... (3.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: Now might I do it pat... (3.3)
Soliloquy Analysis: How all occasions do inform against me... (4.4)

Ophelia's Burial and Christian Rituals
 The Baker's Daughter: Ophelia's Nursery Rhymes
 Hamlet as National Hero
 The Elder Hamlet: The Kingship of Hamlet's Father
 Claudius and the Condition of Denmark

 In Secret Conference: The Meeting Between Claudius and Laertes
 O Jephthah - Toying with Polonius
 The Death of Polonius and its Impact on Hamlet's Character
 Blank Verse and Diction in Shakespeare's Hamlet