HAMLET for Shakespeare’s 400th starring HRH the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles), Dame Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Ian McKellen, Tim Minchin, Paapa Essiedu, David Tennant, Harriet Walter, David Tennant, Rory Kinnear and other theatre stars
— “To Be Or Not To Bethat is the question!

Quite brilliant… shared for my Chinese friends who cannot access youtube…

Honoring the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth/death the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, the “Shakespeare Live!” show, celebrating the foremost playwright, was broadcast live on British television. This light-hearted tribute was the brainchild of Gregory Doran, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s artistic director.

Hamlet is the longest of Shakespearean plays, lasting about about 4-5 hours.  The soliloquy where Hamlet contemplates suicide is written in iambic pentameter in the scene, Act III, Scene I,  often called the “nunnery scene”.   Theatre history suggests that it was first performed by Shakespeare’s friend, actor Richard Burbage as part of the acting troupe called the King’s Men in about 1600 at the Globe Theatre in London.

Original Text    Rough Translation
To be, or not to be?
That is the question—
  To live, or to die?
That is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler
in the mind to suffer
  Is it nobler to suffer
The slings and arrows
of outrageous fortune,
  through all the troubles
fate throws at you,
Or to take arms
against a sea of troubles,
  or to fight off
the many troubles,
And, by opposing, end them?
To die, to sleep—
  in order to end them?
To die, to sleep?

While Polonius and Claudius hide and eavesdrop, Hamlet breaks into this most famous soliloquy, perhaps the best-known speech in the English language. Hamlet returns to the question of suicide, wondering if it would be preferable to end his life or not:

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,

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 th’ 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 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 remembered.