TO BE OR NOT TO BE
Provides a sustained and challenging exploration of Hamlet's 'To Be or Not to Be', the most celebrated and least understood speech in the English language
Uncovers the theatrical background to the speech and shows how actors, theatregoers and readers have responded to it from Shakespeare's time to the present
- Close analysis unpacks the language of the soliloquy and raises several paradoxes
- Lively, readable style and approach
Shakespeare Now! is a series of short books of truly vital literary scholarship, each with its own distinctive form. Shakespeare Now! recaptures the excitement of Shakespeare; it doesn't assume we know him already, or that we know the best methods for approaching his plays. Shakespeare Now! is a new generation of critics, unafraid of risk, on a series of intellectual adventures. Above all - it is a new Shakespeare, freshly present in each volume.
Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy is quoted more often than almost any other passage in Shakespeare. Parodies and advertisements show us that invoking even its first two words is enough to imply the rest of the speech - though few of us can recall much about it. For we like to think we know this speech, even as we like to think we know our Shakespeare. To Be or Not to Be takes this most famous speech and unpacks it’s meaning to reveal the questions and problems it raises. Hamlet's speech asks us to ask serious questions about knowledge and existence. The book asks what close attention to Shakespeare's words can tell us about what we don't and perhaps can't know. If this speech concerns what isn't knowable, what else is it about? Is it or is it not about suicide? Do the King and Polonius overhear? If so, does Hamlet know or care? What must we bring to it, as readers? What about as audience members: to what do we need to pay attention? This book reads the individual words, phrases and sentences of Hamlet's famous speech in 'slow motion' to highlight its material, philosophical and cultural meaning and its resonance for generations of actors, playgoers and readers.