“Essere o non essere” Text and Translation

1865 version from the premiere: English translation
Essere o non essere! codesta
la tesi ell’è – Morir? – Dormire – e poi?…
Finir le angoscie di quest’egra e lercia
Di carne eredità con un letargo!…
Morir? – dormire – e poi?… Dormir – sognare!!!
Qui si dismaga l’intelletto; e quali
Sogni fuggiti dalla grama vita
Verranno a popolar quella ferale
Eternità do sonno?… E qui s’impiglia
L’umana mente! e n’esce il dubbio; e n’esce
Il lungo pazientar de’ sventurati
Su questa terra; avvegnacchè se il ferro
Dello stiletto ne saldasse i conti,
Chi vorria sofferir le ingiurie e i mali
Dell’esistenza? chi vorria l’oltraggio
Patir dell’oppressore, e del superbo
La contumelia, e delle fè tradite
Il disinganno, se un terror non fosse
Di qual cosa di là dopo la tomba? –
Quel cieco mondo, cui nessun viandante
Ancora ci narrò, ne fa codardi
E acclini al pazientar fra le miserie
Di che sem carchi, pria che aprirci un varco
Fra l’incertezza di miserie ignote.
To be or not to be! that
is the question – To die? – to sleep – and then?….
To end the anguishes of this sick and filthy
inheritance of flesh with a hibernation!…
To die? – to sleep – and then?… To sleep – to dream!!!
Here cognition is demolished; and what
dreams escaped from wretched life
will come to inhabit that fatal
eternity of sleep? And here the human mind
is entangled! And from it comes doubt, and
the long waiting of unhappy ones
on this earth; Since the blade
of a knife can settle our accounts,
who would want to suffer the injuries and evils
of existence? Who would want to suffer
the insult of an oppressor, and the abuse
of arrogant ones, and the disappointment
of betrayed fidelities, if there were
no terror of something beyond the grave? –
That blind world, of which no traveller
has yet told us, makes us cowards
and disposes us to be patient among the miseries
that are burdened with our origins, before opening to us a passage
to the uncertainty of unkown miseries.
1871 Revised version found in the complete works of Boito (tutti gli scritti): English translation
Essere o non essere! codesta
La tesi ell’è. – Morir? – dormire – e poi?…
Finir le angosce di quest’egra e lercia
Di carne eredità con un letargo!…
Morir? – dormire – e poi?… – Dormir – sognare!!!
Qui si dismaga l’intelletto, e quali
Sogni fuggiti dalla grama vita
Verranno a popolar quella ferale
Eternità di sonno?… E qui s’impiglia
L’umana gente e n’esce il nero dubbio.

Ah se bastasse il rapido
Vibrar d’uno stiletto
Per annientar quest’anima
Che ci tumultua in petto,
Chi mai vorria l’ingiurie
Dell’oppressor soffrire,
I disinganni e l’ire,
E la tradita fè?

Ma dalla tomba s’alzano
Fantasmi di terrore
Ed un mistero orribile
Ci fa pusillo il core,
Ci lega alle miserie
Di questa età mortale
Pria che gettarci al male
Che noto ancor non è.

To be or not to be! that
is the question. – To die? – to sleep – and then?…
to end the anguishes of this sick and filthy
inheritance of flesh with a hibernation!…
to die – to sleep – and then?… – to sleep – to dream!!!
Here cognition is demolished; and what
dreams escaped from wretched life
will come to inhabit that fatal
eternity of sleep? And here people
are entangled, and from this comes black doubt.

Ah, if the rapid
brandishing of a dagger
can annihilate this soul
that riots in our breats,
who would ever want
to suffer the injuries of a tyrant,
the disillusionments and rage,
and betrayed fidelity?

But fantasms of terror
rise from the grave
and a horrible mystery
makes cowards of our hearts,
it ties us to the miseries
of this mortal age
before throwing us to the evil
that is yet unkown.

Original Shakespeare for comparison (from Hamlet III:i)
To be, or not to be: that 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 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: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The 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 the 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 undiscover’d 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 enterprises of great pith 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 remember’d.

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