To be or not to be

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Shakespearean monologues for teens.

Act III, Scene i

Hamlet's soliloquy

HAMLET
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 heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished! 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 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 remembered.


Shakespearean monologues for teens.


To be or not to be is so well known as a monologue that it is difficult to do with fresh eyes. Even if someone does not know the monologue; to be or not be is a famous phrase in our society. How can you make that monologue fresh and how do you make it stand out? It is so well known because it is so good. The first thing you should know when attemtping this monologue is that Hamlet is struggling with something. He is tormented. His father has died under mysterious circumstances and Hamlet has come back from university to attend the funeral. His mother quickly remarries his uncle and Hamlet feels that is suspicious. Hamlet is soon visited by the ghost of his father who tells Hamlet that he was poisoned by his brother; Hamlet's uncle and his new father-in-law. What is he to do? Though he certainly has his suspicions, he is not sure that the ghost was real or if it was real, whether it was the ghost of his father or perhaps a demon to lure him into violent acts to send him to hell. Hamlet decides to pretend that he has gone mad figuring out that people will say things, will let things slip around an insane person that they wouldn't say in front of someone who has all their wits about him. So Hamlet acts the madman to all but his best friend; Horatio.

So, it is only in his private moments or in conversations with Horatio, that we really know what Hamlet is thinking. His girlfriend; Ophelia has no idea what's going on. When he starts with To be or not to be, he is by himself and the speech shows the audience his inner turmoil. To be or not to be-To exist or not to exist. But in this speech I suspect Hamlet is not asking; should he kill himself, he is asking; Should he passively put up with the horrible injustices that have been done to his father or should he take arms and fight against the king and his army; a sea of troubles and thus likely be put to death without gaining his revenge. The mountain he should fight is so large but he has a powerful need for revenge.

He thinks that by acting and dying in the process he would not have to endure life's pain anymore.
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! To die, to sleep.

Just as quickly he wonders about the terrors of the afterlife.

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause

He wonders who in their right mind would bear the pains of life

But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns,

Hamlet says that people would rather put up with the devil they know than one they don't.

And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Hamlet has no idea what the consequences any act of revenge might have, whether he be killed and if killed would he end up in a much more terrible place for eternity. He recognizes that too much thinking can get in the way of action and big plans can whither away with too much thinking.

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.

Hamlet feels he is losing the will to act, because the consequences of action are great and he is angry with himself for not having the courage, contemplation being the opposite, or antithesis of action. At this point in the play he has not wrapped his mind around the need for action. He does not feel he has enough proof about his father's murder. A ghost may not be the best witness. This soliloquy can start off slow, build with anger and then dissipate in energy when he realizes that he lacks the will to act

—Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia!—Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.

Hamlet sees Ophelia who is praying. Ophelia is his girlfriend who he is about to treat very badly. Orisons are prayers, so when he says

Nymph, in thy orisons

He means that in her prayers, he is asking her to forgive him for what he is about to do, or simply to pray for him. This is the beginning of Hamlet's cruelty to Ophelia which eventually drives her mad. Hamlet is certainly a complicated main character, full of strengths and flaws and one of Shakespeare's and the western world's greatest dramatic parts.

Most auditioners asking for a monologue from Shakespeare would know this speech inside and out and most commonly it is done as if the words are precious and to be savoured. Your job as an actor is to bring something new to the audition, and one of those ways is to make it mirror what Hamlet feels, to alternate between action and inaction. In other words, make it fun, and make it about a real person. It is not a great speech because of the words, it is a great speech because it so accurately human nature. Make it your own

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