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To Be or Not to Be

William Shakespeare, the bard wrote Hamlet, a play to avenge his father, the ghost of the King of Denmark by killing the new king, his uncle. Hamlet feigns madness, contemplates life and death, and seeks revenge. His uncle, fearing for his life, also devises plots to kill Hamlet.

To be or not to be was spoken by Hamlet who thinks about whether he should face life’s hardships head on or end them by dying. Hamlet is alone on stage as he asks these questions about his purpose and life. His quote which came in Act 3 shows he is questioning the value of life and asking himself whether it’s worthwhile hanging in there. He is extremely depressed at this point and fed up with everything in the world around him, and he is contemplating putting an end to himself.

Not my cup of tea, however, one of the great English writers from the past who we can learn from according to scholars. Personally, I find this type of interaction complete nonsense, depressing, and far from the kind of material we should be exposed to which should encompass positivism to move forward and succeed under today’s difficult circumstances.  

Don’t worry about all the words as old English presides over the tragedy written sometime between 1599 and 1601. Here it is:

“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 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 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 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 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 remembered!”

If there is something positive to take from this, it’s that the past was darker than today in terms of hardship, difficulty in bringing food to the table and making a living with dignity. So, I suppose it helps us realize how lucky we all are!

As a final note, I used to teach Shakespeare at High School! In my opinion, Hamlet is a miserable piece of art, whereas Romeo and Juliet is a better story; romantic, and more intriguing!

Take care!

Prof. Carl Boniface


Vocabulary builder:

Bard (n) = a poet, traditionally one reciting epics and associated with a particular oral tradition. "Our national bard, Sir William Shakespeare."

Epics (n) = classics, blockbusters, extravaganzas, costume drama, period piece

Avenge (v) = retaliate, punish, redress, revenge, even the score, take vengeance, get even, hit back, get back at, get you back

Feigns (v) = pretends, fakes, simulates, invents, affects, assumes, shams

Fed up (adj) = unhappy, sad, down, despondent, dejected, wretched, glum, dismal, low, miserable, jaded

Perchance (adv) = maybe, perhaps, possibly, conceivably, feasibly, by chance, (ant) definitely

Shuffled (v) = scuffled, hobbled, shambled, lumbered, slouched, waddled, trundled, drag your feet, scuff your feet, rearranged

Dignity (n) = self-respect, self-esteem, poise, self-worth

Intriguing (adj) = arousing one's curiosity or interest; fascinating. "Romeo and Juliet is an intriguing story." 


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