why is "to be or not to be" so famous

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i have to do a paper for my english class on why hamlets monologe "to be or not to be" is so famous?

-- Greg (hyperlitefluid@hotmail.com), March 14, 2002


I suppose something initially becomes famous simply because people love it/hate it/admire it. Perhaps a more pertinent question is, why is it still famous after 400 years?

To begin with, there's barely a phrase in it that is not quoteable and mis-quoteable. I'd go out on a limb and say probably the three most quoted and misquoted lines of English literature come from Shakespeare, and two of these are from HAMLET: 'If music be the food of love ...', 'Alas poor Yorrick ...' and 'To be, or not to be ...', and the greatest of these is of course 'To be...'.

Beyond being 400-year-old archaic English farmed out to reluctant students, it's part of a living, breathing play script, and it has all the layers and possibilities of meaning, emphasis, thought and feeling which keep it infinitely exciting, as indeed does the whole blessed play. There's just so much going on.

Of course it's a magnificent piece of writing , and can be a magnificent piece of speaking, both for the structure of the thing and its actual content (what it says and how it says it). It's open to varied interpretations, and is incessantly discussed for this reason. Check out responses to the questions in this forum entitled INTENT OF TO BE OR NOT TO BE and THE MEANING OF ACT I SCENE I... .

There's something in it that touches almost every one, that everyone can 'relate to', whether it's as deep as you have reached a nasty point in your life where 'the undiscovered country' looks particularly attractive; or merely that your toaster broke this morning and you have to put the trash out; or, like a lecturer of mine, you like to say that getting an exam over is 'a consummation devoutly to be wished'; or you revel in the language - love the word 'fardels' there, love the play on 'quietus', love the image of taking arms against the sea, etc.; or you're fascinated at the way this character's heart and mind work; or all of the above and more.

I suppose the short answer is, it is a stunning piece of poetry which is eternally relevant as a consideration of the human condition, of the nature of human 'be'-ing.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), March 14, 2002.

It is an old existnetial question "To be or not to Be" .Every stark exposure to the all pervading duality in our lives gives rise to the same question "TO be or Not to be" Shakespeare's phrase touches a familiar chord within all of us becuase of the fact that all of us have at some point of time in our lives , with some degree of ipact where we wish we could we have a say in our existence, ineffectually tho.hat and some very good propaganda at the hands of British Critics must have lead to the popularity of this question/phrase. The question that arises now is whether you are satisfied with this answer or not, and either way , is there anythig anyone can do about it?

-- vikram gahlot (vgahlot2004@email.iimcal.ac.in), September 24, 2003.

It strikes a chord in people for all of the reasons cited previously, but also, more deeply, because it is asking "Continuity or death?" The literal surface of this sounds like he's talking about suicide but I think the thing that sticks with us is the deeper issue of egoic death. Do we continue in the same vein with all of our struggles and pain and seperation between how we live and what our ideals are? Or do we die to that and see what's beyond the veil of this psychological self structure we've spent our lifetimes constructing?

At the end of the day that is the only free will choice we have; and that is to be or not to be.

--jeremy --------- www.valiens.com

-- Jeremy Vaeni (jeremy@valiens.com), December 22, 2004.

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