To Be or Not to Be (book)

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To Be or Not To Be
To Be or Not to Be (book).jpg
AuthorRyan North
Cover artistRay Fawkes, Noelle Stevenson
Hamlet, Ophelia, King Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Polonius, Laertes, Horatio
Publication date
Followed byRomeo and/or Juliet[1] 

To Be or Not to Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure, also referred to as To Be or Not to Be: That Is the Adventure, is a 2013 novel by Ryan North, retelling the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet in a choose your own adventure format and mostly contemporary language. The initial run of the book was crowd funded through Kickstarter and published by charitable "uncorporation" Breadpig.


North posted To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure to Kickstarter on November 21, 2012, with a fundraising goal of $20,000, which was reached in three and a half hours.[2] North promised stretch rewards for higher fundraising amounts reached, including improving the book to be created and further prizes for backers. North said that calling the response "'amazing and incredible' would almost be underselling it."[3] By the close of the 30-day fundraising period, the project had raised $580,905, making it the most funded Kickstarter publishing project (second-most as of May 2013).[4] The book was mailed to backers in August 2013, three months after the original proposed date. A prequel story titled Poor Yorick, illustrated by Tyson Hesse, was made available to backers.[4][5]


To Be or Not to Be offers the reader the option to play as one of three characters: Hamlet, Ophelia, or Hamlet Sr., King of Denmark. From there the story branches frequently, with some options following the course of the original play and others providing the choice to give up on the quest to kill King Claudius, or to follow other pursuits (Ophelia, for example, is a keen scientist who can invent indoor heating, and King Hamlet, as a ghost, can choose to explore the ocean floor or tame the ghosts of dinosaurs). The choices that follow Shakespeare's play are marked with little "Yorick skulls". The story can reach any of 110 endings, each illustrated in colour by one of a wide variety of artists, including fellow webcomic artists Kate Beaton, Christopher Hastings, Jeph Jacques and Randall Munroe, among many others.[6]

The book features references to other works, including other plays of Shakespeare's (in one ending, Hamlet returns to the University of Wittenberg, befriends classmate T. J. Macbeth who nicknames Hamlet "Banquo", and returns with him to Scotland) and more recent pop culture. Occasionally the player can switch control between characters, such as taking over as Hamlet after his father has succeeded in convincing him to kill Claudius, playing as Claudius while reading a "The Adventure is Chosen by You" book-within-a-book based on play-within-a-play The Murder of Gongazo, or having a brief adventure as Horatio.


  1. ^ "I have started work on the sequel!"
  2. ^ Flood, Alison. "Hamlet rewritten as choose-your-own-adventure game book." The Guardian. 27 November 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  3. ^ Colter, Aaron. "Crowd Funding Watch: Ryan North Remixes A Shakespeare Classic With ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ [Interview]." Archived 2013-10-08 at the Wayback Machine. 27 November 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  4. ^ a b Hallett, Alison. "Outrageous Fortune." The Slate Book Review. 9 August 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  5. ^ "Update #58: Poor Yorick and Rad Audiobook!". Kickstarter. Aug 8, 2013.
  6. ^ To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure on Kickstarter

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