What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither;
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 despis'd 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 these 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 naught 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.
So farewell to the little good you bear me. Farewell! a long farewell, to all my greatness! This is the state of man: to-day he puts forth The tender leaves of hopes; to-morrow blossoms, And bears his blushing honours thick upon him; The third day comes a frost, a killing frost, And, when he thinks, good easy man, full surely His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root, And then he falls, as I do. I have ventur'd, Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders, This many summers in a sea of glory, But far beyond my depth. My high-blown pride At length broke under me, and now has left me, Weary and old with service, to the mercy Of a rude stream that must for ever hide me. Vain pomp and glory of this world, I hate ye! I feel my heart new open'd. O, how wretched Is that poor man that hangs on princes' favours! There is, betwixt that smile we would aspire to, That sweet aspect of princes, and their ruin, More pangs and fears than wars or women have; And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer, Never to hope again.
Henry VIII (c. 1613), act III, scene ii, lines 350–72. Cardinal Wolsey is speaking about his friendship with Henry VIII.
I cannot tell what you and other men Think of this life; but, for my single self, I had as lief not be as live to be In awe of such a thing as I myself.
Nor stony tower, nor walls of beaten brass, Nor airless dungeon, nor strong links of iron, Can be retentive to the strength of spirit; But life, being weary of these worldly bars, Never lacks power to dismiss itself.
Had I but died an hour before this chance, I had liv'd a blessed time; for, from this instant, There's nothing serious in mortality: All is but toys; renown, and grace is dead; The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees Is left this vault to brag of.
Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Who will believe my verse in time to come, If it were filled with your most high deserts? Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.
Sometime 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 ow'st, Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st, So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
O! if, I say, you look upon this verse, When I perhaps compounded am with clay, Do not so much as my poor name rehearse; But let your love even with my life decay; Lest the wise world should look into your moan, And mock you with me after I am gone.
The earth can have but earth, which is his due; My spirit is thine, the better part of me: So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life, The prey of worms, my body being dead; The coward conquest of a wretch's knife, Too base of thee to be remembered. The worth of that is that which it contains, And that is this, and this with thee remains.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have, Though I, once gone, to all the world must die: The earth can yield me but a common grave, When you entombed in men's eyes shall lie. Your monument shall be my gentle verse, Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read; And tongues to be your being shall rehearse, When all the breathers of this world are dead; You still shall live, such virtue hath my pen, Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.
This silence for my sin you did impute, Which shall be most my glory being dumb; For I impair not beauty being mute, When others would give life, and bring a tomb. There lives more life in one of your fair eyes Than both your poets can in praise devise.
But do thy worst to steal thyself away, For term of life thou art assured mine; And life no longer than thy love will stay, For it depends upon that love of thine. Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs, When in the least of them my life hath end. I see a better state to me belongs Than that which on thy humour doth depend: Thou canst not vex me with inconstant mind, Since that my life on thy revolt doth lie.
Rise, resty Muse, my love's sweet face survey, If Time have any wrinkle graven there; If any, be a satire to decay, And make Time's spoils despised every where. Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life, So thou prevent'st his scythe and crooked knife.
O! for my sake do you with Fortune chide, The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds, That did not better for my life provide Than public means which public manners breeds.
"I hate" she altered with an end, That followed it as gentle day, Doth follow night, who like a fiend From heaven to hell is flown away. "I hate", from hate away she threw, And saved my life, saying "not you".