To Be or Not to Be

To Be Or Not To Be In Its Forms

While the overall plot structure and events in Shakespeare’s folio and quarto versions of the play Hamlet are roughly similar, they differ in certain aspects and minor details. These differences affect how the play is presented and character interactions. Language is remarkably different between the two, as the quarto uses much more archaic spelling and word usage in contrast with the folio.

The first quarto version of Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1 generally has less detail and complicated sentence structure than the folio.   This results in the entire soliloquy in the quarto being less than half of the folio’s. The folio Hamlet appears to be much more worrisome and fearful than that of the quarto. While the quarto makes a few comments about existence, the folio contains extreme comparisons showing the hopelessness that is in resisting our troubles. To “take arms against a sea of troubles/ and by opposing end them” is a form of suicide, as the sea is a torrent that cannot be stopped by one person. The quarto says that those “borne before an everlasting Judge” will never return, a much less drastic and painless end.
The folio Hamlet also has a different take on the meaning of death than the quarto Hamlet. The quarto seems to believe that death is more of a release than an end to all ends, as death is a form of “dreaming” to him. The folio simply compares death to sleeping, which, although peaceful as well, is not as joyful. The quarto version inquires about a hope for something awaiting after death, even after suicide. The folio does not share this optimism, with Hamlet stating his “dread of something after death”, implying hell or retribution for one’s sins and as a result of ending one’s own life.