To be or not to be Hamlet Shakespeare iwannabealady creative Lyz Stephanie Durand

To Be, or Not to Be

To be, or not to be PODCAST EPISODE

There are certain things in life you fall in love with immediately and for all time. William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, or The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is one of those things. I read Hamlet with a mind spinning and a heart being pulled in every direction. Who doesn’t love a brooding intellectual hottie caught up in an impossible situation?

We’ve all heard the line: To be, or not to be. It’s really famous– Shakespeare’s most famous line, actually. But what’s it really all about? On my mission to make geeky things cool for everyone, I’ve decided to take on this text (and create the awesome graphics below). So here’s a very brief analysis of To be, or not to be, along with a video I created to make it more memorable.

Chaire Cathédrale Liege, Le genie du mal

Hamlet begins his soliloquy by asking,

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.”

You know when life’s being an absolute dick, and you’re working your ass off getting nowhere fast, and the boyfriend you should’ve broken up with ages ago gets you into debt, and your bank account is sounding alarms, and your pet just died? Those are some of the mild slings and arrows of outrageous fortune which Hamlet is referring to in this soliloquy. Do we bear the heartaches, no matter how shattering, or do we end them? And if we choose instead to live and suffer, why?

To be or not to be Hamlet Shakespeare iwannabealady creative Lyz Stephanie Durand

He goes on to compare death to sleeping.

To die, to sleep; to sleep, perchance to dream– aye, there’s the rub: For in that sleep of death what dreams may come?”

See, the thing is, there may be a marvelous new world waiting for us after death, but maybe what’s on the other side is something worse than the slings and arrows of this life. Maybe it’s a nightmare. It’s a toss up. It’s

the undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn no traveller returns”

The result of this mystery is that it

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.”

Conscience does make cowards of us all. All of our thinking about possibilities leaves us cowardly and stagnant. We stay in a life that we hate because we’d rather not risk the uncertainty of another path.

We suck up our despair and content ourselves with toiling and complaining till the end of our natural days.

To be or not to be Hamlet Shakespeare iwannabealady creative Lyz Stephanie Durand

I told you it’d be a very brief analysis, and I’m taking the risk of you thinking me a fraud, but I don’t want to break this down line by line. Here’s where you can find a great breakdown, though.

I’d like to turn your attention toward another aspect of this work which I love.

The beauty of this writing isn’t in the context of the words alone;

it’s in the sound that these words make together; the music. For years, I’ve tried to highlight the musical quality of certain works of literature, but it wasn’t until recently that I thought to showcase this quality by adding music to my readings. I strive for innovation, so I hope you like what I’ve come up with.

To memorize, or not to memorize? That was the question.

To be, or not to be. I never imagined that this larger than life speech would be for people like me who couldn’t remember even simple poems, but I’ve been on a mission these past few months to memorize works that I’ve always loved (more on that in another post). Despite my own skepticism, I gave it a shot. And I did it, ya’ll! I’m now certified to roam the streets of the world as a bonafide douchebag. If you’d like to become a certified douchebag by memorizing Hamlet’s To be, or not to be soliloquy, I’ve included a link to my audio reading at the top and bottom of this post. Recite it every day, and you’ll be on your way.

Pair this reading with:

Hamlet Sparknotes

Movie: What Dreams May Come (starring Robin Williams)

Movie: Hamlet (starring Mel Gibson)

Audio: iwannabealady podcast

On Netflix: Shakespeare The Legacy (I learned a lot of new things about Shakespeare’s life and the world he grew up in, which is always cool.)

I had a hell of a time getting this “literary bundle” together for you. Everything was connected and disconnected (filming and editing the video, the blog post, the podcast, designing the graphics for here and Instagram), discombobulated (I’m talking about you, Technology; you’re formidable and relentless; you’re a sonofabitch, if I ever saw one.) So what I’m saying is, if you dig this content and the work that went into it, if you’ve learned something, or feel inspired, or simply enjoyed the pretty views, please consider liking, commenting, and sharing my content. Any step you take, even the smallest, to support iwannabealady (and make me famous-er) is deeply appreciated.

*** If you’re digging my graphics, I’ve got great news! I’m currently building an Etsy store which will feature gorgeous, cool, moderately hippie, moderately geeky graphic design posters. And for those of you who’ve been loving my audio readings, I’ve been working on an audio book just for you. It’s going to be cool and innovative, not your grandma’s audio books. I’ll be sharing more details in the coming months, so stay tuned!

3 thoughts on “To Be, or Not to Be

  1. Ahhh, the stirring and shaking of one’s heart and mind from a story very well told! Heart torn, mind spinning indeed. Riveting. How many has Shakespeare penned? How deeply has Shakespeare touched and moved the Western hemisphere, particularly on the stage, celluloid, and pages from front to back cover!? Unlike many poetic playwrights before him or after, his gift of lyric and prose four centuries later STILL captivates his audience! Lyz, you have done Hamlet and Shakespeare justice here. Bravo!

    When I remember this scene I can relate to it, within several familiar human dramas in history or fiction, even one or two I have experienced personally. I want to share them, describe their gripping tales that make this mortal life we live…

    a most beautiful paradox worth every minute.

    You have been the last dream of my soul. […]


    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

    OMFG! Are you kidding me!? SHUT THA FRONT DOOR already!

    But alas, I know myself all too well and I will write a novel here in all my invigoration and passion then deservedly get banned by Madame IAmALady for excessive mouthiness! To all of your whispered reliefs and hallelujahs I will restrain myself and spare all your graces. 😉

    This is wonderful stuff Lyz! Well done Ma’am. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Professor! The very influence you’re talking about it just what the Netflix documentary expounded on so well. I’ve felt for a long time that I had a good understanding of his life and times, but the film humanized him in a way that makes his works seem even more extraordinary. One would think it’d have the opposite effect. Shakespeare will never die!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I too have watched and enjoyed that Netflix documentary. As a serious history buff/fanatic, I found it to be very well done. I am always all about historical context, full context when possible, when portraying a person or events. 🙂

        On a slight side note, if you liked Shakespeare the Legend, then I bet you would enjoy Queen of the Desert also on Netflix. It covers more widely (and accurately) the truer Liaison for Great Britain and the Arabian tribes fighting and revolting against the Ottoman Turks than the well-known T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), then sadly, against Western Allies’ greed, deceit, and arrogance. Who was the truer more useful Liaison?

        The sharp, bold, confident, classy, Queens College – Oxford University educated and first in her class… Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell. Known fondly as Khatun by her Boudoin, Persian, and Arab friends and irritating (intimidating? 😉 ) to many British and Western men of position… she was the only white woman of her time to TRULY want to know and understand a world and culture very different from her own then do it! Some say even better than T.E. Lawrence and most any men. HAH! 😄

        Also, if you are able to watch Letters from Baghdad, on PBS Masterpiece, that too is an excellent documentary about this extraordinary woman, especially for her Edwardian times and lofty, self-ordained demi-gods known commonly as men, or Gigantopithecus-Egotithicus… but with little else, above or below the chest-beating rituals! 😛

        Anyway, just thought I’d mention it Lyz.


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