William Shakespeare 

To be, or not to be (from Hamlet 3/1)


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 traveller 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.


mp3 (woman's voice)


.mp3 (Kenneth Branagh)


Archaic grammar

"Thou", "thee", "thine" and "thy" are pronouns that have dropped out of the main dialects of Modern English. During the period of Early Modern English (~1470-1700), they formed the Second Person Singular of the language, and were standardized by the time of the King James Bible as shown below.  

Subjective Objective Possessive Present Tense
Verb Ending
1st Pers. Sing. I me my/mine[1]  none
2nd Pers. Sing. thou thee thy/thine[1]  -est
3rd Pers. Sing. he/she/it him/her/it his/her/its -eth
1st Pers. Plural we us our none
2nd Pers. Plural ye/you[2] you your none
3rd Pers. Plural they them their none
[1]: "Mine" and "thine" were used before "h" and vowels, much as "an" was.
[2]: "You" had replaced "ye" for most plural uses by 1600.

You may have been told that "thou" and "thee" were for familiar use, and "you" and "ye" were formal. This was not true originally, but it was true for about two centuries, roughly 1450-1650, including Shakespeare's time. The previously plural "you" was used in the singular to signify politeness and respect, which left "thou" and "thee" for all the other singular uses, ranging from endearing intimacy to bitter rudeness.

Eventually, the politer "you" drove out nearly all uses of "thee" and "thou"; they survived mostly in poetry and religion. Several groups continue to use these pronouns today as part of their daily speech (although with different grammar), including residents of Yorkshire, Cumbria, the East Midlands, and some rural areas of Western England. Some Quakers also used their Plain Speech with "thee" and "thy" until the middle of the 20th century.