tobeornotIt’s hard to title a book or a movie. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words, but it’s usually those first couple of words that are the hardest. Truth be told, I’m still not 100% happy with The Lead Cloak‘s title. It has just the slightest tinge of fantasy, when it’s really a pretty straight sci-fi adventure.

One of the most common things people try with titles is to adapt a famous quote or line from the Bible or Shakespeare. Sometimes this can be devastatingly effective. Other times, pointless or pretentious.

After seeing numerous titles adapted from Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, I started to wonder … is there any part of the soliloquy that has not yet been turned into a title?

Here’s what I found.

star-trek-6-the-undiscovered-countryThe rules:

  • I looked for titles of books, movies, songs, journal articles, and albums. A title for someone’s blog wasn’t going to make the list.
  • A phrase too short to be clearly a quote was not consider. Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” is clearly not a quote of the word in the soliloquy.
  • It couldn’t be about Hamlet or Shakespeare. That seemed too easy to use a quote from Hamlet to write a book about him.
  • In many cases, there are many pieces of work that share a title (such as the first line, To Be or Not To Be). I’ve made the judgement call on which was the most prominent and linked to that.
  • I also chose longer phrases than shorter ones. There are works called “Bare Bodkin,” but I linked to “With A Bare Bodkin” since it fills up more of the soliloquy.

Stats below the soliloquy.

Hamlet. Act III, Scene i.

To be, or not to bethat 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 heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. 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,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered 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 not 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 enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action. — Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! — Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.

It gets a little sparser at the end, but there’s still plenty there. Also, thank God for Star Trek! And science fiction in general, which helped fill out a lot of these titles. The most absurd use of this soliloquy I found was probably the 74 page book “A Consummation Devoutly to be Wished”: The Removal of Deerfield’s Utility Poles. This looks like the work of an English major who couldn’t find better work. There’s a Matlock episode buried in there as well.

Here’s where the titles came from:

TV Show: 1
TV Episode: 6
Movie: 3
Short Film: 1
Book: 10
Fan Fiction: 3
Comic Book: 3
Scholarly Paper: 2
Album: 1
Government Paper: 1
Band Name: 1

If I missed one, ping me a link on Twitter and I’ll update the soliloquy.

Updated: Link to “Who Would Fardels Bear,” submitted by GamutMan.

There are still a couple workable titles left in the soliloquy. If someone wants to help round it out, here are my favorites, with some story ideas. Go for it.

There’s the Respect
A father has to teach the son he didn’t know he had about the ways of the world.

His Quietus Make
A socialite who seems to have it all commits suicide. No one reads it, because they don’t know what quietus means.

To Grunt and Sweat
A scrawny 99 pound weakling challenges the biggest bully in school to a fight.

Those Ills We Have
A tearful novel about a husband and wife who want to hide their terminal disease from each other so as not to burden them.