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I need some good sources on different ways to portray/perform Hamlet's third...

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zoe1994 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 3, 2009 at 7:21 PM via web

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I need some good sources on different ways to portray/perform Hamlet's third soliloquy..(to be or not to be).

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mr-robitaille | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted June 3, 2009 at 9:47 PM (Answer #1)

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In order to figure out how to perform this soliloquy correctly, you must first think about its underlying meanings.

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(65)
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(70)
Devoutly to be wish'd.

Hamlet is here considering death, whether or not he should continue "to be." Is it really more honorable to face all the punishments of life than it would be to simply fall asleep in death?

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(75)
That makes calamity of so long life.

Here, Hamlet begins to wonder "what dreams" (or rather, nightmares) the afterlife would bring him if he were to prematurely end his 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, and the spurns(80)
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(85)
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?

Hamlet here acknowledges that life offers a lot of discouragement, and it would be much easier to make one's "quietus," or relieve oneself of these burdens, "with a bare bodkin," or a mere dagger. The only problem with this, as Hamlet sees it, is the chance that the act of suicide would deliver him to other, perhaps far worse, torments.

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,(90)
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!(95)
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.

Despite his desire for escape, Hamlet's fear of the beyond forces him to continue living. He concludes with a glimpse of Ophelia, partly the source of his troubles, whom he has just seen.

Any performance of this soliloquy should portray realistically the emotions of fear and exhaustion that fuel Hamlet's conflict in this scene.

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ninja1 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted December 15, 2009 at 4:01 AM (Answer #2)

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First, before you act it out, you need to know how Hamlet is feeling. Consider what Hamlet is saying in one line, word by word. Then consider the line as a whole. Here is a translation of Hamlet's to be or not to be-

Translation-

To be, or not to be, that is the question.
Is it nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to fight against a sea of troubles,
And end them by fighting? To die, to sleep,
Nothing more, and by sleeping, to be able to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That the body gets as part of life is an ending
To be wished for very earnestly. To die, to sleep,
To sleep! Perhaps to dream. Yes, there's the catch,
For what dreams may come in that sleep of death,
When we have left this life on earth,
Must make us stop. There's the respect
That makes a mess of long life,
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's insults,
The pangs of rejected love, the law's delay,
The inexperience of office, and the disdain
That patient merit takes from the unworthy,
When he himself might his final settlement make
With a bare, sharp knife? Who would bear these burdens
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
Except that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose borders
No traveler returns, puzzles the mind,
And makes us bear those problems we have
Rather than fly to others that we don’t know about?
In this way, a conscience can make cowards of us all,
And in this way the natural color of making up your mind
Is covered with the pale shadow of thinking,
And projects of great substance and significance,
And in this regard, their movement turns erratic,
And lose the name of action. Wait!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in your eyes
May all my sins be remembered.

Hope this helps!

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