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Hamlet lecture: To Be Or No To Be

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Hamlet lecture: To Be Or No To Be

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A close reading of Shakespeare's famous soliloquy from Hamlet, Act III, Scene I. I delve into the speech's argument and rhetoric. There is also a visual accompaniment (designed by my wife), which allows you to see how the characters of "Hamlet" have been portrayed over time.

A close reading of Shakespeare's famous soliloquy from Hamlet, Act III, Scene I. I delve into the speech's argument and rhetoric. There is also a visual accompaniment (designed by my wife), which allows you to see how the characters of "Hamlet" have been portrayed over time.

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Hamlet lecture: To Be Or No To Be

  1. 1. Hamlet: To Be Or Not To Be Paul Hricik, 2020
  2. 2. “To be or not to be.” First Folio, 1623.
  3. 3. Ghost Richard Burton's Hamlet meets the Ghost- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4Nq7sFE3VY
  4. 4. Hamlet
  5. 5. Claudius
  6. 6. Gertrude
  7. 7. The scene so far, Act III, Scene i:
  8. 8. Ham. To be, or not to be, that is the Question: Whether 'tis Nobler in the minde to suffer The Slings and Arrowes of outragious Fortune, Or to take Armes against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them: to dye, to sleepe No more; and by a sleepe, to say we end The Heart-ake, and the thousand Naturall shockes That Flesh is heyre too? 'Tis a consummation Deuoutly to be wish'd. To dye to sleepe,
  9. 9. To dye to sleepe, To sleepe, perchance to Dreame; I, there's the rub, For in that sleepe of death, what dreames may come, When we haue shufflel'd off this mortall coile, Must giue vs pawse. There's the respect That makes Calamity of so long life: For who would beare the Whips and Scornes of time, The Oppressors wrong, the proud mans Contumely, The pangs of dispriz'd Loue, the Lawes delay, The insolence of Office, and the Spurnes That patient merit of the vnworthy takes, When he himselfe might his Quietus make With a bare Bodkin? Who would these Fardles beare To grunt and sweat vnder a weary life?
  10. 10. But that the dread of something after death, The vndiscouered Countrey, from whose Borne No Traueller returnes, Puzels the will, And makes vs rather beare those illes we haue, Then flye to others that we know not of. Thus Conscience does make Cowards of vs all, And thus the Natiue hew of Resolution Is sicklied o're, with the pale cast of Thought, And enterprizes of great pith and moment, With this regard their Currants turne away, And loose the name of Action. Soft you now, The faire Ophelia? Nimph, in thy Orizons
  11. 11. Hamlet’s Mind Map
  12. 12. Imagery “To Take Arms against a sea of troubles…” “To suffer the slings and arrows…”
  13. 13. To Be Or Not To Be: The thesis. Exeunt. Enter Hamlet. Ham. To be, or not to be, that is the Question: Whether 'tis Nobler in the minde to suffer The Slings and Arrowes of outragious Fortune, Or to take Armes against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them: 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. Hamlet Claudius Laertes Ophelia To Be in Modern Text To Be Faximile Folio 1 (1623), transcription from Internet Shakespeare Editions. Modern text transcription from Internet Shakespeare Editions.
  14. 14. To Be Or Not To Be beat 1: Working up the nerve to dye, to sleepe No more; and by a sleepe, to say we end The Heart-ake, and the thousand Naturall shockes That Flesh is heyre too? 'Tis a consummation Deuoutly to be wish'd. 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 Devoutly to be wished.
  15. 15. To Be Or Not To Be Beat 2: Weighing the consequences. To dye to sleepe, To sleepe, perchance to Dreame; I, there's the rub, For in that sleepe of death, what dreames may come, When we haue shufflel'd off this mortall coile, Must giue vs pawse. There's the respect That makes Calamity of so long life: For who would beare the Whips and Scornes of time, 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,
  16. 16. Beat 3: The nerves return The Oppressors wrong, the proud mans Contumely, The pangs of dispriz'd Loue, the Lawes delay, The insolence of Office, and the Spurnes That patient merit of the vnworthy takes, When he himselfe might his Quietus make With a bare Bodkin? Who would these Fardles beare To grunt and sweat vnder a weary life, 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 That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin?
  17. 17. But that the dread of something after death, The vndiscouered Countrey, from whose Borne No Traueller returnes, Puzels the will, And makes vs rather beare those illes we haue, Then flye to others that we know not of. But that the dread of something after death, The undiscovered country from whose bourn No traveler returns, puzzles the will, And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of. To Be Or Not To Be 4: The downward spiral.
  18. 18. To Be Or Not To Be: Conclusion 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 away And lose the name of action. Soft you now, Thus Conscience does make Cowards of vs all, And thus the Natiue hew of Resolution Is sicklied o're, with the pale cast of Thought, And enterprizes of great pith and moment, With this regard their Currants turne away, And loose the name of Action.
  19. 19. Interpretations
  20. 20. Lawrence Oliver Joan Plowright- Laurence Olivier's first wife and co-star in Hamlet (1948). Olivier cast his wife for this film because he believed Hamlet had an unresolved Oedipus Complex.
  21. 21. Does Hamlet know that he's being watched? Most productions of Hamlet represent Denmark as a claustrophobic place where people are constantly being watched.
  22. 22. Final thoughts Hamlet has been translated into over 80 languages. It has spawned nearly 100 films, and countless productions. "The most important thing about Hamlet is that he is placed in an impossible situation, and that his character must develop in a surprising way to himself and the audience." - John Gielgud

Editor's Notes

  • Hamlet was written in 1600, the pinnacle/ middle of Shakespeare's career, after Julius Caesar but before Macbeth.

    To Be Or Not To Be has intrigued and mystified people for centuries. It is full of ambiguous imagery, haunting images, and solemn contemplative ideas. I'm going to try and break the speech down first like an intellectual argument, but I will also give you some of my interpretation of Hamlet’s thoughts and feelings. Ultimately it’s up to the reader to decide what’s happening in the speech. That's Shakespeare's genius.
  • Just a refresher of the plot:

    The king has died and been seen as a ghost

    He tells his son Hamlet that he was murdered by his brother Claudius, who killed him to become king and marry Hamlets mother.

    Hamlet is trying to determine if the ghost is telling the truth and if so, how can Hamlet revenge the death of his father?
  • The speech occurs right in the middle of the play. Hamlet has been acting strange and the king is worried. He hides behind a tapestry right before Hamlet enters. He then delivers this famous and highly cryptic speech, which I will now read
    :
  • 6l
  • Very ambiguous
    Can apply to any big life decisions

    Utterly useless to Claudius when he's trying to determine why Hamlet is acting strangely.
  • Now before I talk about the context of the speech, I want to deconstruct it as an intellectual argument. Hamlet is grappling with something huge, and he is weighing the consequences of his potential actions. Remember, Hamlet is a prince, but he is also a college student.

    Two points- to be or not to be
    One is passive and one is active
    Both actions are potentially lethal.

    I believe that this speech is not just about suicide. It's about the choice between suicide and murder, (in this case killing Claudius).

    JC, Macbeth, and Hamlet
    Passive voice
    Refuse to mention the name of the man who will die
    Refuse to say ‘murder’
    Personify death in abstract terms.
  • Lets discuss the two central images at the start of this speech. One is active- fighting (taking arms), and one is passive (to suffer…). However both choices have a similar outcome- you cannot fight the sea,and arrows are just as lethal.
  • Let's look at the speech again, and turn it into a series of beats.From here the speech has 6 beats. What he's thinking about or feeling is open to interpretation, but the argument definitely changes at these points. First the thesis:
    Setup the two options (murder and suicide). Why do I think this? Similar to 2 other speeches.
  • He's working himself up for something either murder or suicide.
  • Death is a possibility- suicide or regicide.
    There's the rub- there's the catch.
    He has to answer to God for his actions either way.
    Wittenberg and protestant reform
    Coil is a snake skin
  • • Starts as a wry joke
    • Uptick in energy
    • Everything he mentions Claudius has done.
    End Claudius with his Bodkin (dagger)
  • Once again Hamlet is thwarted by the concept of Death and divine judgment.
    He seems to imply that everyone is scared into compliance with the threat of death.
  • His conclusion is that he has no conclusion
    He can't kill himself because his conscience tells him that God is against it, and
    He cannot kill Claudius because of fear of death or damnation.
    The native hue (red, as in blood), is curtailed, cut off by the very thought of Deaths pale scythe.
  • Murder or suicide?
    Does he come to a conclusion?

    If they won't talk:

    Gibson is a sort of man in mourning. He is as close to the action movie hero as Hamlet gets, even though Hamlet, the avenging hero is the prototype for every action movie, every superhero, and most kung fu, which is why its hilarious that Swartzeneger parodies him in Last Action Hero- the movie is a loving parody of every single action star since the original- Hamlet.
  • Why Else might Hamlet be so cryptic?
    Not all versions are about suicide or murder
    Olivier believes that he has an Oedipus complex
  • Branagh is about court intrigue. In contrast with Oliver's Gothic Elsinore, his is bright and baroque, but it's full of 2 way mirrors. Half the film is either large shots with lots of people watching public performances l, or POV shots of people being watched.

    His 2B is all about the possibility that Hamlet knows that Claudius is watching him through the 2 way mirror- he frightens him, puzzles, him, but in the end never gives Claudius a clue as to his true intentions.
  • Murder or suicide?
    the speech is not only famous for its universality but its Evocative imagery, clear construction, and heightened circumstances.
    Shakespeare is able to give us a complete character without giving everything away, which allows anyone to reinterpret the character their own way.
    That is why Shakespeare's characters endure.

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