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.”
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.