Hope & Healing Through Photography and Poetic Expression

The Most Famous Question…

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.
William Shakespeare
Please visit To Be Or Not To Be | Suite101 for a short philosophical view on why the first
line in Shakespeare’s soliloquy has resounded as the most famous quotation
throughout literary history, and has implications reaching
far beyond the context of Hamlet amongst our
contemporary existential thinkers.

52 responses

  1. Bruce Ruston

    That is indeed THE question, love the post

    October 15, 2012 at 12:56 AM

  2. Thank you dear Bruce — yes such a big question… I do agree! So many ways ponder 🙂 Sending good thoughts your way! ~RL

    October 15, 2012 at 1:13 AM

  3. your posts are so soothing to the eyes! great work! z

    October 15, 2012 at 1:45 AM

    • Thank you dear Z! So glad you find the aesthetics soothing…. despite the intentional distortion (fisheye lens) which I believe lent an interesting effect for this. Sending Love ~R

      October 15, 2012 at 10:25 AM

      • Playamart - Zeebra Designs

        nice effect, and the poetic arrangement of your post is almost musical. nice work! z

        October 15, 2012 at 9:11 PM

      • Robyn Lee

        Thank you so much z!! Means a lot ! 🙂

        October 15, 2012 at 9:34 PM

  4. Yaz

    Wow, Robyn. The photo and Shakespeare both. I also devoutly wish to sleep forever, perchance to dream! Thank you Robyn.

    October 15, 2012 at 2:08 AM

    • Yes Yaz – I have no idea what drove me to Shakespeare last night…. his classic question just seemed to percolate in me suddenly. Thank you dear one – and may your dreams always return you to the peaceful place that is Love! xo

      October 15, 2012 at 10:27 AM

  5. Lets begin with the Photo…. wow but you have long legs… they go on forever… Shakespeare, his words are probably the most difficult to interpret .. at school I remember reading his plays as part of our education… that probably being the reason I hate languages.. and struggled to be able to write English… I’ve had to over come that hate for business purposes and then to teach oneself to pen in a manner that others will read and understand, a battle I’ve only recently undertaken…
    His words have so much meaning in so many different ways, that one can easily misinterpret why a person posts his words… but with you I know they are merely a statement of wish to get better and to allay the suffering… am I right????

    October 15, 2012 at 2:22 AM

    • Laughing bulldog — Yes – I’ve always dreamed of having those 5 feet tall legs – but rather I am 5’ 1” feet …including all! See how the camera allows us to engage in fantasy as well – amazing! On the new header up over on my home page ~ you can see more accurate leg length for me :). As for Shakespeare, very very challenging for the student I agree. Someone I was close to growing up used to recite Shakespeare all this time, and I was always trying to figure out what on earth he was saying!! Now I find it interesting to take on small bits and go slow with analysis and interpretation. I enjoy delving into the deeper meaning. For me last night – was just feeling pulled in so many directions ~ facing so many decisions and confusions, disillusions, that this soliloquy just popped into my head. The questions Hamlet is asking, and the way he ultimately acknowledges that he cannot know his own destiny no matter what action he decides to take. Of course Hamlet is pondering living or dying here.. but this to me is a metaphor for so many things. Much Love and thanks to you dear BD
      ps: and yes to answer your question,- my deepest desire is to recover well, and live fully in every conceivable way! xo Robyn

      October 15, 2012 at 10:44 AM

  6. I’m guessing that will be a question forever, at least for us humans. We question everything don’t we Robyn? I wonder if we didn’t question, would we still be human, I mean would our thinking processes have evolved in a different way that would have made us less or more than who/how we are today ~ and would it have mattered? Great Post I love it, dear friend, a thinking post – most excellent! Penny xox

    October 15, 2012 at 2:27 AM

    • Yes Penny – so many questions! So few answers!!! I guess it is a human thing, as we don’t see cats and dogs sitting around asking all these deep questions 🙂 It probably part of our evolution and expansion as thinking/feeling humans. I am so glad you enjoyed my pondering with William here today. Sending much Love dears friend ~ R

      October 15, 2012 at 10:52 AM

      • Thanks Robyn, yeah I’m a ponderer too (that sounds like a naughty word when said in that way lol). I can’t think of a better person to be pondering about than William Shakespeare. Warm and loving thoughts your way, today Robyn 🙂 xox

        October 15, 2012 at 1:33 PM

  7. the question indeed has many implications..lovely post

    October 15, 2012 at 2:40 AM

    • Yes nightlake – for me was an psychological exercise – a classic metaphor to ponder…. just when we think we have the answers — we realize we never truly will. Thank you dear friend ~ so glad you enjoyed!! ~R

      October 15, 2012 at 10:54 AM

  8. Lovely post Robyn – love the Pre-Raphaelite picture… and what an interesting commentary you pointed us to… To hear this soliloquy recited by a great actor is a wonderful experience, when the familiar words spring into life…

    October 15, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    • Thank you dearest Valerie… yes the picture of Hamlet and Ophilia was actually sample wallpaper! I thought it was perfect to represent the classic Shakespearean play! Very glad you enjoyed the post – and now you have inspired me to try to listen to this soliloquy recited … has been a long long time… Much Love to you ~ R

      October 15, 2012 at 10:58 AM

  9. This is wonderful Robyn!

    October 15, 2012 at 4:41 AM

    • Thank you dear Julie. For some reason this soliloquy just popped into my head yesterday, and thus the late night (early morning) post. I’m sure it’s all the questions I’ve been struggling with lately that spurred it. Wish I really had the crystal ball!! So glad you enjoyed.. xo Robyn

      October 15, 2012 at 11:01 AM

      • jmgoyder

        You are a wonder Robyn! I have so much admiration for you.

        October 15, 2012 at 11:05 AM

  10. Hi Robyn, I’m such a Shakespeare fan – so to see your photo intepreting the most famous soliloquy in history is a lovely start to my day! xx

    October 15, 2012 at 5:21 AM

    • Oh Ruth, that is so lovely to know. I find William’s work challenging to say the least, but have enjoyed dabbling and studying at my own pace. There is so much wisdom and depth hiding within his lyrical and often perplexing words…. This one – yes a classic, and just seemed to come to me yesterday in the midst of contemplating some of my own questions, and the photo seemed to reflect the same….. Sending lots of Love ~R

      October 15, 2012 at 11:04 AM

  11. I used to say it that a lot when I was younger not quite getting it, I think I do now. Thanks for sharing Robyn. Have a lovely week!

    October 15, 2012 at 8:06 AM

    • Yes boomie – I also remember this question from younger days — when it held different meaning in many ways. Today I can see a broader , less literal perspective in Hamlet’s words, applied to many scenarios. I can appreciate his struggle, and his acknowledgement that there really is no ‘right’ answer so ultimately… we ‘just be’ xo R

      October 15, 2012 at 11:14 AM

  12. To be or not to be
    This is the question 
    And i add 
    That need not an answer
    Or concession

    For who is the living 
    That decides not not to live 
    But a dead ..

    Who would answer not 
    For taking the pain
    And triumph
    But the dead

    Who would answer not 
    For taking the love
    and love
    But the dead..

    Who would choose
    Not to be the martyr
    Who lives
    But the dead

    The not to be people
    Can have the comfort 
    of rest
    Can run from pain and love..
    But they are 
    What life mostly 

    October 15, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    • Such a thoughtful and insightful comment Tarek. Thank you. It certainly gave me pause this morning. You are soooo wise to make such an important observation here~ analyzing this soliloquy in the literal sense, the way the question was portrayed in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet… I suppose anyone who is pondering this famous question… “To be, or not to be?” must already be invested in the pain and passion of living… .for if they were not – would they be capable of even seeking truth in this way? Would they have the fire in their spirit to challenge the meaning of existence? Of course, I was drawn to this soliloquy last night, not so much in the ‘literal’ sense (life vs death) ~ but more as metaphor for the questions and uncertainties we all face in this life, and the ones I am personally facing now. Ironic how Hamlet ultimately decides that even if he opts for “the sleep of death” there is still uncertainty in “what dreams may come” … even there in very final sleep!!

      I enjoyed your analysis my dear friend… speaks of your own fervor for life and courage to willingly face even that which is threatening or unknown. x R

      October 15, 2012 at 11:34 AM

  13. The photo is so surreal
    A wide angle lens with a “low” birds eye view… Of your life? .. The people who walked away from you , left you alone ? And it seems the shadow is still wondering why ? But obviously proud .. The answer for the question is “to be” .. Life goes on no matter what … 
    Thank you Robyn for the mental exercise .. Quite refreshing ..

    October 15, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    • Ahh yes – there is a photo here too 🙂 Yes my shadow stands alone today – and asks all kinds of questions… I am also including this image in my ‘crystal ball’ series so that is why the fisheye lens ~ my personal attempt to see the future!! I intentionally wanted a distorted view of my world … as that is how it feels at times now. Oh yes – the answer is always “to be” I so agree — no matter what, I believe that is the natural state of existence while we navigate this life. Most welcome, and I am so happy you enjoyed this exercise in existential thought. Helped me too 🙂 So appreciate your participation~! R

      October 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM

  14. Love It ……

    October 15, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    • Yes dear Cat — I must concur… “to be” is always the way…. xo Much Love your way today!!

      October 15, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      • Cat Forsley

        And You Beauty 🙂
        big hugs your way xoxoxo

        October 15, 2012 at 11:53 AM

  15. Robyn….a surreal post…so courageous…and to pair it with Shakespeare….even braver…xoxmeryl

    October 15, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    • Meryl thank you — I have no clue how this became a post last night…. blogging in the wee hours is dangerous sport! Or – maybe therapeutic?? — was a good exercise in existential thought and embracing the ‘unknown’ . I’m glad you enjoyed dear one! xo R

      October 15, 2012 at 11:55 AM

  16. Another big question of overwhelming proportions – Will I be the next to get pink slipped ?

    October 15, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    • Yes Carl – this age-old question can be applied to soooo many scenarios even in our daily contemporary lives. I am hoping no ‘pink slips’ on the horizon though… Thank you for offering another modern day implication where this most ‘famous question’ can apply! Love and Blessings ~ R

      October 15, 2012 at 12:01 PM

  17. I always appreciate Shakespeare Robyn, but the shadow self-portrait is what really impressed me today. I love it! Very nicely done. Robyn

    October 15, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    • Oh thank you Robyn! That is so great that you enjoyed this – and we had self-portraits on same day!! I loved your mirrored shot today! This shadow image is the fisheye lens ~ so a little bit of a surreal/crystal ball effect which is what I was after. So happy you enjoyed xxoo R

      October 16, 2012 at 12:06 AM

  18. Sometimes it’s the smallest questions that leave you scrambling for answers. The Bard put it simply, and we’ve been trying to find the best response ever since.

    October 15, 2012 at 7:04 PM

    • Thank you so much thoughtsontheatre! Yes – it amazes me that The Bard wrote these simple words and they have become the most famous ones in all of literary history. It really is profound how we can extrapolate and apply them today in so many ways too… They spoke to me yesterday and thus the post. I appreciate your visit ~ Warm wishes , RL

      October 16, 2012 at 12:08 AM

  19. powerful! how are you doing?

    October 15, 2012 at 11:16 PM

    • Thank you dear buckwheats ~ I am hanging in – hanging on – and still undergoing a lot of investigations. Hopefully soon will have consensus on best plan – but so much uncertainty – thus my post today! Hope all is going well for you my friend xo R

      October 16, 2012 at 12:10 AM

      • buckwheatsrisk

        I’m thinking of you. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I hope they are able to find a way to get you some relief! xo

        October 16, 2012 at 11:02 AM

      • Robyn Lee

        Thanks so much buckwheats – really do appreciate that! xo

        October 16, 2012 at 4:01 PM

      • buckwheatsrisk

        you’re welcome! xo

        October 16, 2012 at 4:12 PM

  20. Lovely, Robyn!

    October 16, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    • Thank you Fergi ~ do appreciate 🙂

      October 17, 2012 at 1:56 PM

  21. Lovely post Robyn. Your writing always elicits an emotion or causes me to think. Your writing and photography go hand-in-hand…so eloquent. 🙂

    October 16, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    • Oh thank you LuAnn…. yes everything is about emotion with me — isn’t it 🙂 Guess that is a good thing – and so happy to have this outlet to share with lovely friends like you! Warm wishes your way ~Robyn

      October 17, 2012 at 1:57 PM

  22. Nice post….a gal who quotes Shakespeare, be still my heart.

    October 17, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    • Thank you kindly dear Jeb… so happy to be party to your lovely heart’s rhythm today 🙂 R

      October 17, 2012 at 4:35 PM

  23. Hiya Yoga queen xxx
    like this right
    How did You learn Yoga ….?
    I learned from Rodney Yee ……
    write me if you wanna xxx

    October 17, 2012 at 5:22 PM

  24. Wow, what a great picture, wonderful idea! Beautiful shadow and nice footprints!

    October 18, 2012 at 12:28 PM

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