Unit Five Section C


”To Be, or Not To Be” by William Shakespeare

In Hamlet, a young prince deeply mourns the recent death of his father. He also disapproves of his mother's marriage to his uncle, Claudius. In the famous soliloquy that follows, what is Hamlet considering?

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 consumation
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.

Developing Comprehension Skills

1. What is meant by the phrase, "To be, or not to be"? What action is Hamlet considering?
2. What do the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" represent?
3. Hamlet says of death, "'Tis a consumation/ Devoutly to be wished." What does he find desirable about dying? What frightens him about death?
4. What state of mind do you think could bring about Hamlet's speech? Which answer to Hamlet's question do you find "nobler"?

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind
by William Shakespeare

This poem is a song sung by one of the characters in As You Like It. What attitude does the speaker have toward life and friendship?

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind

As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly;
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh

As benefits forgot;
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly;
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
Developing Comprehension Skills

1. According to the song, what is more unkind than the winter wind? What has a sharper sting than the winter sky?
2. How does the speaker feel about friendship and loving? Are there any clues as to why the speaker might feel this way?
3. What kind of music do you think would fit with the lyrics to this song? Explain your choice.

”Silvia” by William Shakespeare

"Silvia" is a song. What qualities does Silvia have that make the speaker want to sing about her?

Who is Silvia? What is she?

That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair, and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,
That she might admired be.

Is she kind as she is fair?

For beauty lives with kindness:
Love doth to her eyes repair,
To help hirn of his blindness;
And, being help'd, inhabits there.

Then to Silvia let us sing,

That Silvia is excelling;
She excels each mortal thing
Upon the dull earth dwelling:
To her let us garlands bring.
Developing Comprehension Skills

1. Why do the "swains commend," or praise Silvia?
2. Which of Silvia's qualities is as important as her beauty?
3. What do you think the speaker's relationship is with Silvia?
4. Which do you think is more attractive in a person, beauty or kindness?

”Sweet--and--Twenty” by William Shakespeare

”Sweet--and--Twenty” is another song by Shakespeare. In it, how does the speaker try to win the object of his love?

O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear! your true love's coming,

That can sing both high and low:
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know.
What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet-and-twenty!
Youth's a stuff will not endure.
Developing Comprehension Skills

1. What is the speaker asking the one he loves?
2. How does the speaker try to persuade her not to wander further? What will be at her journey's end?
3. What do you suppose "Present mirth hath present laughter" means?
4. The speaker urges the young woman to wait no longer? Why? What is the speaker's attitude about the future?
5. Do you agree with the speaker's view that love is for the young? Why or why not?

“Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”
Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

For centuries, scholars have tried to determine who the people addressed in these sonnets are. Waht are Shakespeare’s feelings toward the person in this sonnet?

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed:
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade
When in eternal lines to time thou growest.

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Developing Comprehension Skills

I. Comparing someone to a summer's day would seem to be a compliment. How is the person being described in this poem unlike a summer's day?
2. What happens in summer that is unpleasant?
3. In the last line of the poem, what is this? How does it give eternal life to the person the poem is about?
4. Do you agree that a work of art has the power to give "eternal life" to an individual?