EPISODE 75 - To Be or Not To Be



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 heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. 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 disprized 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?


There’s the rub
As mentioned in the episode, what Hamlet refers to as the ‘rub’ is an impediment that would knock the ball off course during a game of bowls. Lawn bowling was popular in the 16th century, and so the reference would have made sense to Shakespeare’s audience. It’s also cleverly mentioned in his history play Richard II, where again a smart character uses it to signify her own troubles.

What sport shall we devise here in this garden,
To drive away the heavy thought of care?
Madam, we'll play at bowls.
'Twill make me think the world is full of rubs,
And that my fortune rubs against the bias.

Within this speech there are a great many words and phrases that have themselves become famous as the titles of other things. To Be Or Not To Be was the title of a play by Ernst Lubitch, and was rewritten 2BR02B (two b or naught two b) in the title of a short story by Kurt Vonnegut. Slings and Arrows was a popular Canadian comedy about an acting group. Outrageous Fortune was a comedy starring Bette Midler and Shelley Long. HIlariously I overheard a guy in New York telling his date that the Punchdrunk show Sleep No More takes its name from this speech - a clear example of mansplaining, or indeed a proud man’s contumely. (It should be noted that ‘sleep no more, Macbeth doth murder sleep’ appears in the Scottish play, on which the show is actually based!) Natural Shocks is a theatre company in Ireland, and a play about gun violence by Lauren Gunderson. Perchance to Dream was an episode of The Twilight Zone. There’s the Rub was an album by Wishbone Ash. What Dreams May Come was a fantasy film starring Robin Williams. This Mortal Coil was a British music collective, and also an episode of Stargate Atlantis. Most grimly, PD James’ novel The Children of Men refers to forced suicides as Quietus. (I’ll continue adding to this list after next week’s episode. If you have any further additions to the list, please get in touch!)