Words Words Words

Shakespeare's Text

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,
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 undiscover'd 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 and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

The full text of the play is available here.


Modern English Version

To live or to die, those are my options.
Is it more admirable to endure
the pain and suffering life requires,
or to take things into your own hands
and end it.

To die. To sleep. To no longer exist.
Because when I say "sleep"
what I really mean is to finally put an end
to the constant heartbreak and suffering
that is just a part of being human.
That's the kind of final loving embrace
I could pray for.

To die. To sleep.
Do we dream when we're dead?
That could make things difficult.
Because what we dream of once
we have escaped the bonds of life
is worth considering.

That's why we all persist
in living these dreadful lives.
Who would put up with
all this pain and humiliation,
the bullying, the rudeness,
the loneliness, the injustice,
the disrespect shown to descent
people by the worst among us,
when you could just end it all
with a sharp point?

Who would carry that weight,
laboring through a tired existence,
if they weren't terrified of
what happens once we die.
Nobody's been there and come back
to tell us what it's like.
That's what paralyzes us,
and makes us put up with all of it.
It could be worse on the other side.

That's why we all become cowards
when we think about death.
That's why any powerful urge to act
will be weakened by second guessing.
And such important undertakings
will lose momentum, go off course,
and fail.


Additional Aids to Understanding

No Fear Shakespeare

Cliffs Notes

Shakespeare Resource Center