To be or not to be Introduction
I'm Hamlet. I'm a smart aleck with a penchant for delivering long speeches about the meaning of life. I've been pretty depressed since my dad died and my mom married my uncle. And you know what I think?
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 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 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 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?
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 remember'd. (3.1.56-90)
Who Said It and Where
Hamlet is pretty depressed. His father just died and his mom ran off to marry his uncle Claudius the first chance she got. To make matters worse, his dear old dad's ghost showed up and told him that his uncle killed him to steal his crown. Gasp.
But Hamlet can't go around just accusing his uncle Claudius of murder and treason without any proof, now can he? What exactly would he say? A ghost told me? Yeah, that'll go over well. He debates whether he should kill his uncle to avenge his dad's death, or if he should wait it out and see what happens. So he hatches a little plan to make everyone think he's lost his marbles while he attempts to uncover some more evidence..
Strangely enough, it kind of works. Everyone totally thinks Hamlet is actually gone mad. A nobleman, Polonius, thinks it's because Hamlet's in love with Ophelia. Claudius isn't so sure. So the two men set a trap for Hamlet.
They use Ophelia as bait to get Hamlet talking. The two men will hide and wait to see what happens when Hamlet encounters Ophelia, hoping they'll be able to judge from Hamlet's interaction with her whether he's been driven mad by love, or by something else entirely. Poor Ophelia. She actually loves Hamlet and now has to lie to him.
Hearing Hamlet approach, everybody clears out so Hamlet can privately deliver one of the greatest speeches of all time. What's the question? "To be, or not to be," of course.