The Fear Of The Unknown


John Barrymore as Hamlet

This is nothing more than my translation into modern English of Shakespeare's classic soliloquy from Hamlet. We all had to study it at school and I'm sure it would be far easier for everyone concerned if all of Shakespeare were thus updated.

I left out the bit about Ophelia since it has nothing to do with the essential question.

Suicide Or Not?

To stay alive, or to kill one's self, that is the question:
Whether it is better to put up with an evil fate,
Or to kill one's self and end the pain.

To die is to sleep: A sleep where we have an end to the manifold pains of life.
Such a thing is greatly to be desired.

But to sleep may also be to dream.
Yes, that's the problem:
For we don't know what dreams we may have when we are dead.
That's what makes us think twice.
That's what makes us put up with the prolonged torture of existence.

For who would put up with creeping senility,
With inimical oppression, with abuse,
With heartbreak, with injustice,
With the tyranny of bureaucracy, and with unmerited rejection,
When one could stop it all with the cut of a knife!

Who would struggle under a burden throughout the length of a miserable life,
Unless they were worried about what comes after death:
That unknown place that none have come back from.

This fear of the unknown baffles the will,
And makes us bear a known pain,
Rather than face the uncertainty of an unknown pain or pleasure.

Thus the fear of the unknown makes cowards of us:
And our clear determination to end it is muddied by our doubts.
Also, great enterprises into the unknown are turned aside,
And lose their way because of this fear.

Warren Mars - December 2004