To be, or not to be – that is the question;
Well blow me down. Here we are at the most famous line in Shakespeare (possible exception “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?) and I’m utterly fascinated by this punctuation.
Now I want to see every edition of this play, like, ever and see how other editors have punctuated this bad boy. I mean, there is a LOT of punctuation in this sentence and I wouldn’t have thought it necessary. One of the reasons I chose this edition that I’m working with is that they’re not so punctuation crazy. There are editions that seem to be nothing but semi-colons and this one tends to not go the semi-colon route so often. But we have one here. On the most famous line in Shakespeare. Pourquoi?
I like this edition because it generally feels as though the punctuation has been put there for performers to speak it. It is punctuation that tends to serve the speaker. It can sometimes be a directive. In this case, it feels like a very specific directive, like a director, almost, telling the actor how s/he should say it. So it might be the editors saying to the actors say: To be (small pause) or not to be (bigger pause) that is the question (not so big a pause as you might think. Not a period, a semi-colon; don’t full stop here. )
This is a perfectly sensible interpretation, of course, but somehow it feels so specific, it almost feels bossy.