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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy from Hamlet

‘To be, or not to be, that is the question’: perhaps one of the most famous lines in all of English literature, but arguably also one of the most mysterious – and one of the most misread. Hamlet’s soliloquy from William Shakespeare’s play is rightly celebrated for being a meditation on the nature of life and death, but some analyses and interpretations of the soliloquy serve to reduce the lines to a more simplistic meaning. So what does ‘To be or not to be’ really mean? First, here’s a reminder of Hamlet’s words:

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: Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 98: ‘From you have I been absent in the spring’

The meaning of Shakespeare’s spring sonnet

From you have I been absent in the spring’ is not up there with Shakespeare’s classic opening lines, such as ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ or even ‘How like a winter hath my absence been!’ But it’s an intriguing sonnet that deserves closer analysis, so let’s dive among the birds, flowers, and Saturn with the Bard and find out how his spring’s going.

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud pied April dress’d in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose; Read the rest of this entry

The Best Shakespeare Sonnets Everyone Should Read

The top ten greatest sonnets by William Shakespeare

Previously, we’ve analysed a good number of Shakespeare’s sonnets here at Interesting Literature, offering a brief summary and analysis of the sonnet in question and exploring its most significant points of interest. But we gave up analysing every single sonnet by the time we got to around a third of the way in. Not every Shakespeare sonnet is a classic, simply because it was written by the Bard. Below, we’ve chosen ten of the very best Shakespeare sonnets.

Sonnet 18 (‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’). This is where Shakespeare’s Sonnets start to get interesting, after the opening sequence of 17 ‘Procreation Sonnets’. Boasting one of the most famous opening lines in all of English verse, Sonnet 18 shows that Shakespeare is already sure that his poetry will guarantee the young man his immortality after all. Read the rest of this entry