Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Aye, there's the Dane

Out, sturm und drang! Laurence Olivier's austere, understated “To be or not to be” soliloquy, from his 1948 film adaptation of “Hamlet”

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 pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action...

“Has there ever been a more boring speech, after 400 years of constant repetition, than To be or not to be?” -- Richard Burton

“Of course when you do that soliloquy everybody wants to join in. It's such an old number that they should have a song sheet.” -- Peter O'Toole

“I confess myself utterly unable to appreciate that celebrated soliloquy and tell whether it be good, bad or indifferent. It has been handled and pawed about by declamatory boys and men, and torn so inhumanly from its living place and continuity in the play, till it has become to me a perfect dead number.” -- Charles Lamb

“The famous purple patch which everybody in the audience waits for.” -- John Gielgud

“To be or not to be--and that's a question?” -- Milton Berle


More actors tackling literature's most famous thought balloon: Derek Jacobi here, Kenneth Branagh here, Mel Gibson here, Ethan Hawke here, a live version by Toby Stephens of the Royal Shakespeare Company here.

AND, of course, “The Simpsons'” brilliant spoof of “Hamlet,” here.


erasmusa said...

i'm a branagh fan, which doesn't leave me much to say. elsinore castle isn't so dramatic in real life.


I prefer Macbeth's "Is this a dagger..?" soliloquy to this one by Hamlet.

Amadeo said...

A very appropriate subject for those of us attached to the English language.

It is said the Bard of Avon added over a 1000 new words to the English language.

And yet in one popular blog, the author decried the use of “big words” as simply to impress others. I doubt if the bard had that as foremost in his mind.

My personal favorites come from Julius Caesar. Remember the b/w movie with stellar cast composed of Marlon Brando, James Mason, Gielgud, and a host of others?

gibbs cadiz said...

ERASMUSA, you've been to elsinore castle? woow! :)

MISTERHUBS, ako naman i like best 'now is the winter of our discontent' from richard iii. :)

AMADEO, wait, who's this popular blogger who decried the use of 'big words?' :)

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