To Sleep, Perchance to Dream Examples

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

This phrase, "to sleep, perchance to dream" is found in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. The words are spoken by the main character Hamlet in his famous soliloquy in Act III, Scene I. These are the original lines from the play:

Examples of To Sleep, Perchance to Dream:

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 consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. 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;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The 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 the 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 undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
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! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

In his soliloquy, Hamlet is contemplating the pros and cons of suicide. One of those is the ability to "sleep" in death, and "perchance to dream." Hamlet contemplates whether or not death would actually be better than living. If dying would bring about dreamless sleep, then it might be peaceful. But "the rub," or the problem is that death's sleep may perhaps bring dreams. And those dreams may or may not be pleasant. Thus, Hamlet is not sure that death will solve his problems.

This phrase is used less commonly today than some of Shakespeare's others, but it is used at times to refer to the idea that sleep (sometimes death's sleep) would be more pleasant than the realities that one is facing in life. Often, it is misused to say that "dreams" would be more pleasant than realities. Hamlet, however, understood that dreams might not be preferable.

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