To Be or Not to Be: 10 Takes on Hamlet’s Famous Soliloquy

Shakespeare is one of those writers whose work is truly timeless. Lines from his plays have worked their way into everyday conversation to the point that not everyone knows they are quoting the bard when they say things like “to thine own self be true.” They think they are just sharing conventional wisdom.

To celebrate the timelessness of Shakespeare’s incredible body of work, here’s a look at some of the most famous, most moving, and most interesting performances  of what is perhaps the most famous soliloquy from his oeuvre, the “To Be or Not to Be” speech from Hamlet. 

Lawrence Olivier  (1948)

Richard Burton (1964)

Christopher Plummer (1964)

Paul Scofield (1965 or 1991*)

*Doesn’t specify which recording this comes from.

Mel Gibson (1990)

Kenneth Branagh (1996) 

David Tennant (2009)

Adrian Lester (2016)

Ben Crystal (Original Pronunciation – 2014)

And, finally, a short documentary on the all Klingon production of Hamlet. 

That’s right. Klingon. 

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Cassandra Neace: Cassandra Neace is a high school English teacher in Houston. When she's not in the classroom, she reads books and writes about them. She prides herself on her ability to recommend a book for most any occasion. She can be found on Instagram @read_write_make