Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1 - on the topic of the Undiscovered Country
For those of you who crave to better themselves, below is a translation of this famous section of Shakespeare.
Hamlet, who had a childhood of dubious happiness, is discussing the pros and cons of death, when his words are ended by the arrival of Ophelia (in a foreshadowing of death coming for all the leading actors in the play!):
The first section is a “translation for the modern ear”, followed by the original.
After all, who would put up with all life’s humiliations—
the abuse from superiors, the insults of arrogant men,
the pangs of unrequited love, the inefficiency of the legal system,
the rudeness of people in office, and the mistreatment good people
have to take from bad—
When you could simply take out your knife and call it quits?
Who would choose to grunt and sweat through an exhausting life,
unless they were afraid of something dreadful after death,
the undiscovered country from which no visitor returns,
which we wonder about without getting any answers from and
which makes us stick to the evils we know rather than rush off
to seek the ones we don’t?
Fear of death makes us all cowards, and our natural boldness
becomes weak with too much thinking. Actions that should be
carried out at once get misdirected, and stop being actions at
all. But shh, here comes the beautiful Ophelia…
"For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will [< “puzzles”, meaning a kind of paralysis of analysis]
…And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action - -
Soft you now, the fair Ophelia!. . .