Skip to main content
Shakespeare & Beyond

Order It: Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquy

a man thinking
a man thinking
a man thinking

Sir John Martin Harvey as Hamlet. Folger Shakespeare Library. ART File H341 no.1 PHOTO (size XS)

“To be or not to be—that is the question” is the first line of arguably the most famous speech in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In this soliloquy from Act 3, Scene 1, Hamlet contemplates death and what comes after it.

Take this quiz to test how well you know the speech, which we’ve broken up into six parts. For each section, drag and drop the cards to place the lines in the correct order before moving on to the next section. And when you’re finished, visit The Folger Shakespeare to read Hamlet’s full speech in the context of what’s happening around it in the play.

“To be or not to be” is traditionally considered a soliloquy, but renowned actor Derek Jacobi has chosen to play it as a speech to Ophelia, as he explains in an interview on the Folger’s Shakespeare Unlimited podcast about his performances as Hamlet: “I’ve played it with four different Ophelias. Each one said how much that helped her performance, because she is the one that does the things that he talks about. She goes mad. She commits suicide. And he talks about it. But could he have planted it in her head?”


[…] Order It: Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy […]

Resource Guide: ‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell - The Folger Spotlight — April 28, 2021