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Thread: To whom is Hamlet speaking when he says "To be or not be?"

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    stanley2
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    To whom is Hamlet speaking when he says "To be or not be?"

    So, the question is: To whom is Hamlet speaking when he says "To be or not to be?" Derek Jacobi wrote: Over the years since I first began playing Hamlet, I have become more and more convinced that 'To be or not to be' is to be treated not as a soliloquy but as a dramatic speech to Ophelia." Add to that J. Dover Wilson's and Isaac Asimov's suggestion that Hamlet overhears Polonius before he enters in Act 2, scene 2 and we have an interesting puzzle. Therefore, is he most likely speaking to his uncle, all three characters at once or to himself? Each is possible. Most likely, I think, he is mainly speaking to his uncle.

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    stanley2
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    And, in due course(as the late Mr. Buckley used to say on public TV), for the BBC video, Jacobi spoke the speech directly to the audience or camera and another possibility is that Hamlet is speaking to "heaven and hell"(2.2.613).

  3. #3
    stanley2
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    Another possibility: Before he enters, Hamlet is thinking that "Gee, uncle Claudius won't like the play we're about to present, perhaps I should say say something dramatic now that he'll like." Or, the previous soliloquy ends with the words, "The play's the thing / Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." He can't wait, so he tries to "catch the conscience" with the "To be" speech.

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