Hamlet’s Exam – the soliloquy Hamlet never delivered while he was at University in Wittenberg

By Apr.21, 2017

Lynne shares some Shakespearean thoughts about exams in honour of Shakespeare Day.

In honour of Shakespeare Day (23rd April), here is the soliloquy Hamlet never delivered while he was at University in Wittenberg.

Hamlet ponders exams

2B, or not 2B: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the test to hazard
To scrap and erase the outrageous reference,
Or to make plans towards sensible essays,
And by planning finish them? Revise: to sleep
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart ache and the thousand natural shocks
Of losing our notes, ‘tis an avoidance
Devoutly to be wish’d. Revise, or sleep;
To sleep: perchance over-sleep: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep what exams we may miss
When we have snuggled in this warm duvet
Must give us pause: there’s the prospect
That makes calamity of such long tests;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The examiner’s call, the proud student’s wrist cramp,
The pangs of missed data, results day,
The temperature of summer exam halls
That concentration of the student takes,
When they themselves might their leisure make,
Round a pub table? Who would text books bear,
To grunt and sweat over an exam paper,
But that the dread of something after term,
The undiscover’d results on whose decree
Some student resits, puzzles the will
And makes us rather swot past papers we have
Than chance those questions that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the healthy hue of nervous first years
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And revision plans of great depth and detail
With this regard their purpose turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Good Ladies and Gentlemen,
Should this speech seem to see into your heart,
You should read our guides to the exam art.
Exeunt with alarums

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