To be, or not to be


To be, or not to be沙士比亞齣戲哈姆雷特第三幕第一場,哈姆雷特王子一段獨白嘅第一句;好多人會用呢句來指成段獨白。佢係世界文學中好常被引用嘅一句[1]


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,
Th'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 th'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 pith[2] and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.[3]


繼續生存,定係就咁死咗佢?呢個係一個問題; 究竟邊樣心高尚啲?忍受命運呢啲橫蠻無理嘅石頭同毒箭?定係執起武器反抗,抵擋呢啲災難?定係本迤,死咗佢就算數?死咗就乜都唔使擔心,唔使忍受呢啲心痛嘅感覺,仲有呢啲肉體一定要承受嘅嘅痛苦。依家都唔使理。




哈姆雷特講呢句嘢時無揸住Yorick嘅頭骨,而且一反獨白嘅慣例,臺上唔係得佢一個:Ophelia 都喺度,但喺哈姆雷特睇唔到到佢(睇場戲嘅製作)而 Polonius 同 Claudius 都匿喺張氈(arras)後面。



呢段世界出名嘅獨白嘅本質係,濃縮咁話,我哋嘅狀態真係衰到完全無咗肯定重好過。咁如果自殺真係畀到我哋呢樣嘢,而 "to be or not to be" 完全任我哋揀,咁唔使問一定係揀好過得多嘅終結("a consummation devoutly to be wish'd" [Act III, Sc. I.])。我哋入面有啲嘢,之但係,話我哋知唔係咁嘅,死唔係所有嘢嘅終結,死唔係絕對湮滅[4]

咁樣,"whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer/the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" 即係揀去「做」( to be), 而 "to take arms against a sea of troubles/and by opposing end them" 至係揀「唔做」(not to be)。呢度有個可能矛矛地盾嘅觀念:納起架生反抗等同於「唔做」;呢個問題通常會解做:納起架生返抗難敵嘅海量嘅麻煩(an irresistible sea of troubles)即係自殺-如果反抗而唔忍住(resisted rather than borne),我哋啲麻煩會滅咗我哋[5]。 另一種睇法就係,面對呢啲 ungovernable tide,惟一反抗就係「積極自殺」("constructive act of suicide")[6]。 兩種睇法, 都認為, 納起架生會引致身亡.

儘管"令變晒我地做懦夫"嘅"良心(conscience)" 經常被 linked to the excerpt that follows and interpreted as an odd use of the word to mean "consciousness of the possibly bad unknown that awaits", it can be also understood as the sense of right and wrong. Indeed, E. Prosser said that "This soliloquy is a meditation on the central theme of the duties and temptations of a noble mind in an evil world". By that interpretation, it's the moral injunction against suicide that would be ultimately decisive, rather than the "dread of something after death", which only symbolizes the usual fires of Hell.[7][8]

但係,之後五行 (starting with "and thus the native hue of resolution...") do not refer any longer to moral judgements, but are saying that in a similar way anything (not just suicide) can become problematical from too much thinking about it.

This (along with Hamlet's indecisiveness and uncertainty of knowledge being major themes throughout the play) inspired many commentators to read the choice between the life of action ("to be") and life of silent acceptance ("not to be") as a primary focus of Hamlet's dilemma. According to that interpretation, "whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer/the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" would get associated with not to be alternative, while "to take arms against a sea of troubles/and by opposing end them" with the to be.

In this take, the Prince's further pondering the nature of death can be seen in yet a different light (in addition to the aforementioned two proposals, ie. the inevitable failure to win the fight against the "sea of troubles" or the only way to actually defeat it). Namely, death could be considered as a third option - the route which allows to avoid choosing between to be and not to be altogether.

Regardless of whether the focus is placed on "life vs. death" or "action vs. no action", the themes tackled by the soliloquy (and by Shakespeare's play in general) led to the character of Danish Prince often getting compared to existentialists after the term was introduced in the twentieth century.


It is often thought that Shakespeare was influenced by his contemporary, albeit late, fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe when he wrote this soliloquy; even partly paraphrasing a line from Marlowe's final play, Edward II:[邊個? ]

Base Fortune, now I see, that in thy wheel
There is a point, to which when men aspire,
They tumble headlong down. That point I touched,
And, seeing there was no place to mount up higher,
Why should I grieve at my declining fall?
Farewell, fair Queen, weep not for Mortimer,
That scorns the world and, as a traveller,

Goes to discover countries yet unknown.

後來 fiction 同埋音樂作品嘅引用[編輯]

叫「To Be or Not to Be」嘅電影有幾齣。Other films taking their titles from this speech include Outrageous Fortune, What Dreams May Come and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country which has a number of references to the works of Shakespeare. As Hamlet has been translated into "original" Klingon, the Klingon translation of the term is taH pagh taHbe'. Additionally, the original title for the classic sci-fi/horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers was "Sleep No More." A Boston-based band, Stray Bullets, had a CD titled The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune.

In the 減料莎士比亞劇團's production The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), the speech is omitted from the Hamlet portion of the production, not for time constraints, or because the speech is so well known, but because the group states that they dislike the speech for momentum and motivation reasons. The What a piece of work is a man speech is delivered in its stead.

  • On The Transformed Man, released in 1968, William Shatner recites the soliloquy in its entirety on track 3 "Hamlet/It Was A Very Good Year."
  • In Billy Madison, Billy Madison mockingly recites part of the "To Be or Not To Be" speech in the drama competition with Eric, and the audience applauds him.
  • In the Hamlet musical from the Gilligan's Island episode, "The Producer", Gilligan, as Hamlet, sings a variation of the "To Be or Not To Be" soliloquy to the tune of Habanera from Bizet's Carmen.
  • The 1969 film The Magic Christian includes a scene where Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) has bribed a famous actor to perform "To be or not to be ..." as a strip-tease.
  • René (Robert Lepage) quotes part of the "To Be or Not to Be" soliloquy during his portion of The Passion Play in the 1989 film Jésus de Montréal. The film also refers to Hamlet in its trailer.
  • In Asterix and the Great Crossing Hamlet is referenced in two quotes by Danish Vikings. One says: "There is something rotten in my kingdom", while holding a skull in his hand. Another one wonders whether he is a discoverer or not and thus says: "To be or not to be; that's the question."
  • A King in New York (1957), directed by Charlie Chaplin, includes a scene in which Chaplin recites the "to be or not to be" speech, and is arguably on a par with other famous renditions.
  • In the Pebbles song Girlfriend, the line"to be or not to be, that is the question," is the opening line of the chorus.
  • In Eternal Darkness, one of the horrors includes the character's head falling off. When it is picked up, it recites "to be or not to be ...."
  • In Marathon 2: Durandal, "Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune" is the name of the game's 2nd stage.[1]
  • In an episode of the American TV series ER titled "Secrets and Lies," Dr. Kovac mentions that he played Hamlet while attending college in Croatia. When he was asked if he performed it in English or Croatian, he replied, "Croatian. Why would I perform it in English?" Dr. Carter then says he played Horatio and starts reciting the "To Be or Not To Be" soliloquy. When he starts to get the lines wrong, Kovac corrects him, first in English and then continues reciting the lines in Croatian.
  • The "To Be Or Not To Be" soliloquy is used in the RTS game Age of Empires III, created by Ensemble Studios.
  • In a Sunday strip of Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin is having a disgusting looking (at least to him) dinner, that suddenly springs to life before his very eyes and recites the "To Be or Not To Be" soliloquy. Then it turns lifeless for a second, and then springs back to life again singing "Feelings".
  • Gogo Dodo recited the "To Be or Not To Be" soliloquy in a humorous manner as his audition for Tiny Toon Adventures in its pilot, The Looney Beginning: "Two bees or not 2-B (Apt. 2-B)...
  • The band This Mortal Coil got its name from the end of the "To be or not to be" speech.
  • Beyoncé Knowles uses "To be, or Not to Be," as the first line in her song Freakum Dress on her 2006 album 'B'day'
  • In Last Action Hero (1993) Arnold Schwarzenegger as Hamlet quotes "To be or not to be....not to be" before setting off a series of explosions.
  • In What Dreams May Come, released in 1998. The title and some of the plot refers to the line "For in that sleep of death what dreams may come."
  • In The Fairly Oddparents (2004), The fictional actor Arnold Schwarzeneggerman states, "To be, or not to be... annihilated!" during a parodied version of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. Schwarzeneggerman also says, "I'll be back... with weapons," referring to the real actor in Terminator.
  • Toward the end of the Bugs Bunny cartoon, A Witch's Tangled Hare, Sam Crubish tells Witch Hazel he would have liked to meet her but had the wrong apartment number: Apartment 2-B. They have a bit of banter over who made the mistake of saying Apartment 2-B, to which Bugs comments, in a pun on the first line of the soliloquy: "2-B orrrrr not 2-B; that is the question."
  • In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World(1932), the protagonist, John is faced with the decision of suicide, in what he sees as a meaningless, cold futuristic society.
  • "In one of the Bard's best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten" is a relevant anagram of the first three lines, discovered in 1996 by Cory Calhoun.
  • In Chain, Season 8's Episode is called 'To be, or not to be' in which Taurus commits suicide, not knowing that his power reserve is still in hand.
  • Patrick Stewart performed a spoof of the soliloquy called "A B...or not a B?" on Sesame Street.
  • Kurt Vonnegut wrote a short story titled 2BR02B, the title of which is a play on the famous phrase.
  • In the 6th stanza of Wislawa Szymborska's poem, "Children of Our Age," an allusion is made to the first line of the soliloquy.
  • In the Doctor Who episode City of Death, the Doctor comes across an original manuscript of Hamlet and recognizes the handwriting as his own—as Shakespeare had sprained his own wrist writing sonnets. The Doctor decries "to take arms against a sea of troubles" as a mixed metaphor.
  • In The Interpretation of Murder Dr. Stratham Younger is a Psychoanalyst who is like Hamlet. He mentions this dialogue and associates "to be" with "pretending" and "not to be" with "being himself and acting".
  • Japanese pop singer Ayumi Hamasaki's 1999 single "TO BE" is believed to be inspired by the soliloquy. The quote is as popular in Japan as it is in the west. In the song she writes that man who discovered her, Max Matsuura, sealed her fate. Making her career the 'BE' in 'To be or not to be'.

Translating the key phrase into Danish, Hamlet's language, it becomes at være, eller ikke at være.


  1. https://nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/soliloquies/to-be-or-not-to-be/
  2. So the Folio; the 2nd Quarto; has 'pitch', which is a possible reading ... see (Edwards, p. 159, note to line 86)
  3. Edwards, 3.1.56-88
  4. Schopenhauer, p.324
  5. Jenkins (1982), p. 490
  6. Edwards, 2003, p. 48
  7. Edwards, p.48
  8. Lewis(2002) says that here it means 'nothing more or less than "fear of death"', p. 207


  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Philip Edwards, ed., updated edition 2003. (New Cambridge Shakespeare)
  • Hamlet. Harold Jenkins, ed., 1982. (The Arden Shakespeare)
  • Lewis, C.S., Studies in Words. Cambridge UP, 1960 (reprinted 2002).
  • Schopenhauer, Arthur, The World as Will and Representation, Volume I. E.F.J. Payne, tr. Falcon Wing's Press, 1958. Reprinted by Dover, 1969.