To be or not to be, that is the question

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"To be or not to be" (in English be To, or not to be, did is the question ) is a quote from the tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare , Act 3, Scene 1. In the play, the protagonist Hamlet begins a monologue with this sentence , in which he reflects on the fact that he is afraid of decisive action because he is afraid of death despite his longing for death and his pain in the world . The character's turmoil becomes clear in this monologue, which lacks neither emotional tragedy nor philosophical depth.

The sentence is quoted in situations that are existentially important for someone.

Very often the monologue is wrongly associated with the cemetery scene (5th act, 1st scene) in which Hamlet holds the skull of the former court jester Yorick in his hand and declaims a lesser-known monologue (“Oh, poor Yorick! I know him, Horatio ... “). Still photos of this scene have generally established themselves as figurative marks (on event posters or in newspaper articles) and are just as well known in the visual representation of the drama as the introductory words of the monologue discussed here, for which - in contrast to the Yorick monologue - there are no props gives explicit stage directions.

Text of the monologue

English text German translation by August Wilhelm von Schlegel (1767–1845):

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 traveler 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. - Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

To be or not to be; That is the question here:
Whether nobler in mind, the arrow and slings
endure of angry fate or,
armed against a sea of ​​plagues,
through resistance they end? Dying - sleeping -

nothing more! And to know that a sleep
ends, the heartache and the thousand thrusts, the
inheritance of our flesh, is a goal
to wish most heartily. Die - sleep -
sleep! Maybe dream too! Yes, there it is:

what dreams may come in the sleep,
When we loosened the earthly entanglement,
That forces us to stand still. That is the consideration that
misery brings to old years.
Because who endures the ridicule and scourge of the times, the

mighty pressure, the proud mistreatment, the scorned
love pain, the right postponement,
the arrogance of the offices and the shame, who does
worthless silent merit,
when he could put himself into retirement

with a needle just? Who would bear burdens
and moan and sweat under the toil?
Only that the fear of something after death,
The undiscovered land, from the district
No Wanderer returns, the will errs,

That we would rather
endure the evils that we have than flee to the unknown.
So consciousness makes a fig of us all;
The innate color of resolution
is offended by thought's pallor;

And companies, highly targeted and valuable,
steered off track by this consideration,
thus losing the plot name. - Quiet!
The lovely Ophelia! - Nymph, include
all my sins in your prayer!


Ernst Lubitsch used the quote in 1942 as the title for his film To Be or Not to Be . Mel Brooks made a remake of this film of the same name in 1983 .

Richard Matheson wrote his novel What Dreams May Come in 1978 , in 1998 the New Zealand director Vincent Ward filmed the work with Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr. in the lead roles, in German the Oscar-winning film is entitled Behind the Horizon .

Individual evidence

  1. Article “To be or not to be, that is the question here” in: Der Brockhaus Multimedial 2005 , Bibliographisches Institut & FA Brockhaus AG, Mannheim, 2005 ISBN 3-411-06519-2

Web links