Hamlet's Speech

Hamlet’s speech from Shakespeare’s Hamlet is probably the most famous soliloquy out there. It’s been analyzed and torn to bits all over the place. Having read Hamlet, I have to agree that this is one spectacular piece of writing. It portrays a young man’s contemplation of suicide as he is faced with a disintegrating family and a bleak future; however, he is plagued with worry that suicide will land him in hell. It’s well-written and full of emotion.

My favorite line in the speech is my favorite line in the whole play and, dare I say it, is perhaps my favorite line in anything I’ve ever read ever. It’s this: “conscience does make cowards of us all.” Ah, how better can you phrase such a brilliant, controversial, and philosophical idea?

What is your favorite line in Shakespeare?

And why do you think Hamlet’s speech is so famous?

“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 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 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 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. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.”

Peace, Aimee

P.S. Remember the Shakespeare sonnet writing contest! Ends 4 December 2011, and the winner receives a 2500 word critique of their manuscript! Details here.


  1. I actually prefer Hamlet's "What a piece of work is man" speech to the "To be or not to be" one. My favourite speech ever is Antony's speech at Ceasar's funeral in Julius Caesar. I just love the way it turns the crowd. A great piece of oratory.

  2. For some reason, I've always found Shakespare very boring and over-rated. Don't know why; maybe because he's one of these athors we were forced to read in high school. I enjoy most of the classics I've picked myself, in particular the Russian >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  3. Aaahhhhh, thank you so much for posting that in full. I love reading Shakespeare, I adore the sound of it. It is a truly magnificent speech.

    My favourite play still remains as Macbeth; I love the way he plays with prophecy and the difference between fate and action. Awesome stuff.

  4. Shakespeare has too many good lines . . .how can I choose?

    Thanks for the info about the sonnet contest!

    And nice to meet you through Sommer's NaNo Champion support group!

  5. Beautiful blog.



  6. Cold as Heaven - School actually made me like Shakespeare. Before I studied it in school, I had no idea what he was saying. But when the teacher explained, it helped me understand it better. Unlike most people, who don't like having to analyze things to death, I enjoy it. :)

    You are very welcome, Angeline. :) And thanks a bunch to Elizabeth!

    And nice to meet you too, Tyrean Martinson. I hope you participate in the contest!

  7. Never been a massive fan of shakespeare but his famous lines are classics and many have inserted themselves into everyday language nowadays. My mother used to quote "neither a borrower or lender be" at me as a child.

  8. I like "To be, or not to be, that is the question" (along with its monologue) since it echoes King Solomon's words on life.
    The older one gets, the more haunting the question becomes as it resonates throughout the mind.