Hamlet Soliloquies for Modern Times

Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet in the 1948 film
Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet in the 1948 film.

The seniors in AP English Literature are reading Hamlet. While Shakespeare’s language may be unfamiliar to the millennial generation, teenagers of any era can relate to Hamlet’s angst-filled internal debate. Teacher Chase Ferree asked students to compose and read aloud a soliloquy about a personal dilemma. Here are three examples, each reflecting a modern anxiety Hamlet might have trouble understanding.

Work vs. School, by Keila Ruiz

To do or not to do: that is the question:
’tis more important to work and learn,
Or to focus on just your educational life
And ignore income? ‘Tis tough these days.
To work; and by working we learn
The mind learns skills, that’s an achievement
Ah, but there’s the catch: while working
Who knows what kind of issues will arise
After we have put time into making money
Will school still be the first thought on our mind?
‘Tis certainly something to worry about.
That consideration makes us doubt responsibilities
After all, no one wants to hire someone with no education
But with no money, who will give you free education?
Th’ thoughts about college, the wants of the money,
The needs to make right, the talk with one’s mommy,
When we ourselves could just make a decision,
Why do we choose to get opinions from others?
Thus fear of wrong choice makes us all hesitate,
And our gut choice becomes weak with too much thinking
Actions we once decided to act upon get crumbled
But time ’tis running out let us just work and make it out.

Buffalo Chicken vs. Barbeque Chicken, by Jasmin Mark

Buffalo chicken or barbeque chicken — that is the question:
Whether ’tis to eat the more spicy one
And to have my mouth on fire
Or to taste the honey on the barbeque
And savor the flavor forever.
To have the room smelling like spice
And have everybody running towards me for food
And I have to fight for my life because I don’t share
‘Tis is a situation I cannot have
Buffalo chicken would get me in trouble.
To eat barbeque and get all messy
Maybe too messy and get all over my face.
Hmmm… maybe this is a situation I can have
Or maybe not because then I am a slob.
But this is a hard choice
My stomach is growling: I need food.
Buffalo chicken would kick me in the gear But barbeque would get me to sleep
I need sleep… but then I need a kick.
I need to pray on this — this is life or death.
And I need some chicken really good chicken.
My conscience says buffalo but my taste buds say barbeque
I need to make a choice but I do not know
Only time would tell when I make the right decision.

The Artist’s Dilemma, by Melvin Marrero

To draw or not to draw that is out of the question.
Because to stop is to prevent progression.
To prevent progression is to neglect,
My dream of being an animator.
To draw however takes time and,
To create my best work takes many hours
Committing to my art will result in,
Lack of sleep.
The decision may seem obvious,
Well not really, because lack of sleep destroys motivation.
So, essentially committing will soon break me
Of course this is hyperbole.
There is no question that I’ll continue to draw.
This is my life, and no consequence,
Will cause me to deviate from my grand scheme
I may be considered an art fiend
But to not draw is to fail myself.

British actor Adrian Lester played Hamlet in Peter Brook's 2000 stage production.
British actor Adrian Lester played Hamlet in Peter Brook’s 2000 stage production.

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