king of infinite space

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

This belongs to Nikita.

 It’s from Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act II, Scene ii), which I read in high school and which really struck a chord with me.  My favorite English teacher taught the class, high school was a difficult but ultimately emboldening time for me, and I have been an avid theatre-lover for as long as I can remember– the line seemed to to fit.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

This is Nikki’s tattoo.

Shakespeare is, essentially, my life– it’s what I’ve been studying for the past few years of my undergraduate career, what I plan to study into graduate school, and hopefully what I will end up teaching as a professor; thus, it only seemed appropriate to get at least one quote tattooed somewhere on my body. Hopefully there are more to come.

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

This is Nicole’s.

Just a wonderful sentiment.

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

This belongs to Julia and was done by Jessica at Staircase Tattoos in Santa Cruz, CA.

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

This is Kathryn’s.

I waited eighteen years to get this. My plan was to get one after I graduated high school, but the money I had set aside went to repairing my car after an accident instead. After that I met my husband, and he’s not a fan of tattoos. We’ve been together almost twenty years, and for my birthday this year he encouraged me to finally get one. After months of consideration I decided on this. A reminder to be brave and never doubt myself. I’ve loved Shakespeare all my life, so it was fitting. (The quote is from Hamlet.)

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3, 78-81

To thine own self be true

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

This is Amy’s.

I wanted this quote for two reasons. The first reason is what the quote says. My goal is to always stay true to myself. The second reason is that I have my B.A. in English, and I adore Shakespeare. So, it was, what I thought, an appropriate homage to him.

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

This is Jennifer Berry’s.

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

This one belongs to Meris:

My mom was a theater major in college, and when she was still in school she studied all of Shakespeare’s plays.  She said that the line “This above all: to thine ownself be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” from Hamlet really shaped her and helped guide her life.  It’s a line that she used to teach me throughout my childhood.  This spring, after an event turned my world upside down, making me unsure of who I could trust, I decided to get this tattooed on my back in my mother’s handwriting.  My mom’s name means “honey bee” in Greek, so I decided to get a little bee along with it.

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

This one belongs to Lauren.

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

This is Hope’s.

I got this tattoo when I was in college. I know I love Shakespeare so much because of my father, who is a huge Shakespeare buff and was taking his children to the theater when other dads were going to baseball games. This is Shakespeare’s best piece of fatherly advice, so I consider it a tribute to my father and the bard.
Plus, they talk about this quote in Clueless, so even those deprived people who haven’t read Hamlet understand it.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Hamlet, Act I, sc. iii

To be, or not to be?

This tattoo belongs to Paige.

Everyone’s heard the saying, “To be, or not to be?”, but rarely have people read the entire page long soliloquy, or for that matter even understand the meaning.

Hamlet’s speech, which begins with those words, is purely thinking out loud about life and death, and struggling to decide whether life is truly worth living if death is going to follow no matter what. By the end of the speech, he has decided that life is worth it, or that’s how I perceive it.

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

“To be, or not to be, that is the question…”

- Shakespeare, Hamlet.  

To sleep, perchance to dream…

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

“To die, to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to — ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. 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.”

- Excerpt from Hamlet‘s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy.

This tattoo was submitted by Ashley:

I took my last exam today, the last test I will have to take to complete my Bachelors Degree. For me, this is huge. I can recall so many times when I wanted to quit. I would thrown down my book and want to scream out of frustration and stress. Giving up would have been so much easier than continuing. But then I would remember what I was working toward, and it would be an injustice to myself if I didn’t finish. And now I have.

Hamlet went through a similar dilemma. He wanted to give up, to kill himself to end the pain and responsibility, to give up on avenging his father’s murder. Out of duty (and partially out of fear) the Danish Prince vows to carry out the task at hand. I am not comparing my situation to that of Hamlet, but I have read this play so many times that I feel for the man. I understand his hesitation, his confusion, his sense of loneliness, and his fear.

Hamlet says that by dying we end all of our earthly suffering, which would be a relief. He then wonders what happens after we die, which makes him wearing of suicide.

Although I wanted to quit on multiple occasions, I knew that my life without this accomplishment would be much worse than the hardships I had to endure to reach my goal. And this is the reason that I got my tattoo. It is a reminder of the hard times that made this victory even sweeter. And it also will keep me going when I hit the inevitable rough spots that are to come. Let’s face it, I have an English degree, I’m just asking for stress.

that Polonius guy

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

This Hamlet tattoo was submitted by Joh.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

- Hamlet, Act I, sc. iii

Joh, however, prefers another quote:

I have to say, I love Hamlet, I love Shakespeare in general, and I love the message of the whole speech.

Plus, the excellent Clueless reference cannot be ignored:

Heather: It’s just like Hamlet said, “To thine own self be true.”
Cher: Hamlet didn’t say that.
Heather: I think I remember Hamlet accurately.
Cher: Well, I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn’t say that. That Polonius guy did.

The rest is silence.

Literary Tattoos: Shakespeare Hamlet

O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o’er-crows my spirit:
I cannot live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest is silence.

- Hamlet, act V, scene ii

This tattoo belongs to Nicky:

I got this tattoo to celebrate getting a 2:1 for my English Literature degree – I’ve since been accepted to a post-grad course in Shakespeare studies, so I’m sure it’ll be an intersting talking point there!