Shakespeare at 400: Hamlet

Shakespeare at 400: Hamlet

For my final look at famous quotations from the works of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) as the 400th anniversary of his death approaches (on April 23), here are some famous speeches and smaller quotations from “Hamlet.”

Among the smallest is one that needs to be short:

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

— Act II, Scene 2

If these weekly posts have you muttering “The play’s the thing” and not quite knowing why, here’s help:

“The play’s the thing

Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

— Act II, Scene 2

But both the most familiar and the most misquoted speech in Hamlet is known as “Hamlet’s soliloquy.” It gets misused for just about anything that can be considered a question, or anything that has to do with sleep — but it’s worth remembering that when this speech occurs, Hamlet is considering being or not being: suicide.

“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 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.”


It has given me pause as I contemplate the quotations in this series of posts to consider that their author has been “off this mortal coil” for nearly 400 years. I hope that you’ve enjoyed considering his work along with me.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.

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  • My favorite play. I must have read it at least a dozen times. Did you ever catch the oddity of the very opening lines?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Not recently, but what better day than today to go and check? Thank you!

  • So many wonderful lines! I have really enjoyed this series on Shakespeare. Thank you!

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    You're welcome. I'm very glad that you've enjoyed it.

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