Six Words

To be, or not to be…

The most famous six words in the world? Maybe. Certainly it’s among the most famous in literature.

There’s a great piece with Samuel West on the BBC’s site today about bringing a fresh interpretation to a soliloquy which has been performed so many times and by so many people that it’s almost impossible to imagine a world without it.

Interpretations can differ, he says, depending on how much you think Hamlet is suicidal or philosophical.

There is also a choice between introspection and engagement, he says. When he acted the part for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the stage lights came up, he strode out towards the audience and looked them in the eye.

Hamlet is my favourite play (with Dr Faustus coming a very close second. If only someone put together a Hamlet / Mephistopheles mash-up, I’d probably be in heaven.*). At two-and-a-half, my son can even do the first two lines of the big soliloquy, just because. (Despite my best efforts, I’ve not managed to catch him on tape doing it: he suddenly starts singing the theme to Bob the Builder the second he’s got any kind of audience, so you’ll just have to take my word for it!) He’s not bad at it either–although his Hamlet’s a bit manic for my liking. And short. And prone to tantrums. Although….

Anyway. For your delectation, here’s a selection of Hamlets. Who’s your favourite?






Yep. Mine too.

*There’s an entirely esoteric and not-very-good joke to be made there involving one of the big M’s lines. I’m not going there. Be thankful.


  1. He’s not my little boy, alas: I’d never get mine in quite such a fine jumper. I came across Theo’s version at the end of last year – and yes, what a tremendously cool dude he is!

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