• Audio
  • 5 mins
  • Level 1: Introductory

Hamlet: "To be or not to be..."

Updated Monday 7th December 2009

Alex Jennings performs one of the most famous soliloquies from Shakespeare; Act 3, scene I: To be, or not to be: that is the question.

Audience Guidance

Stop sign: this video contains content they may offend some viewers Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

This video contains some content that may offend viewers.

 

Watch

Copyright The Open University

Listen

Copyright The Open University

Read

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, the oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, the pangs of disprized love, the law's delay, the insolence of office or 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.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

A reader's guide to Half Of A Yellow Sun Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

History & The Arts 

A reader's guide to Half Of A Yellow Sun

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie takes us to the 1967 Nigeria-Biafra war, for a book that can sometimes be a difficult read.

Article
Harper Lee's life was as surprising as any work of fiction Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Public Domain article icon

History & The Arts 

Harper Lee's life was as surprising as any work of fiction

Harper Lee, who has died at the age of 89, had a life that was as curious as any plot from a novel. Writing in 2015, before the publication of Go Set A Watchman, Professor Richard Gray shared some of the story.

Article
Songs of Love and Hate: On Leonard Cohen Creative commons image Icon By By jonl1973 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/chigley/2682089366/) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license video icon

History & The Arts 

Songs of Love and Hate: On Leonard Cohen

After Leonard Cohen's death, Richard Danson Brown explores the way the songwriter specialised in conveying difficulties in father-son relationships through his songs, including 'Hallelujah'.

Video
10 mins
Living Shakespeare: Kalki Koechlin on India's women and Ophelia Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC video icon

History & The Arts 

Living Shakespeare: Kalki Koechlin on India's women and Ophelia

Ophelia's situation in Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' bears a lot of parallels with Indian women and their place in society. Bollywood actor, Kalki Koechlin, explores her tragic story. 

Video
5 mins
Why do so many children’s stories feature magical creatures? article icon

History & The Arts 

Why do so many children’s stories feature magical creatures?

Dr Dena Attar explores why children's stories are often filled with magical creatures.

Article
Approaching plays Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission free course icon Level 2 icon

History & The Arts 

Approaching plays

Do you want to get more out of drama? This free course, Approaching plays, is designed to develop the analytical skills you need for a more in-depth study of literary plays. You will learn about dialogue, stage directions, blank verse, dramatic structure and conventions and aspects of performance.

Free course
15 hrs
Shakespeare's family Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: © Pljvv | Dreamstime.com - Birthplace Of Shakespeare Photo article icon

History & The Arts 

Shakespeare's family

Peter Thomson describes Shakespeare's family life.

Article
Living Shakespeare: Dame Evelyn Glennie  on the UK and The Tempest. Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC video icon

History & The Arts 

Living Shakespeare: Dame Evelyn Glennie on the UK and The Tempest.

The United Kingdom's Dame Evelyn Glennie talks us through her unique way of hearing and interpreting Shakespeare’s The Tempest. 

Video
5 mins
Reading the Renaissance Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Bascon via Wikimedia article icon

History & The Arts 

Reading the Renaissance

A guide to reading Renaissance poetic drama involving iambic pentametre and blank verse in relation to Christopher Marlowe and Dr Faustus

Article