To most people if you say this line they will immediately think – famous quote, possibly Shakespear. We all think it is a great line, don’t we? Those five words conjure up so many images, it is rather beautiful and it is from this same soliloquy that the other most famous line in Hamlet comes from “To be or not to be?” again it can conjour up so many things – but really it means “To live or not to live?” It makes sense – so whilst Hamlet is contemplating life on a much deeper level- hearing these sentences without any background and without any context we make it what we want it to be.
If you hear the above two quotes you wouldn’t automatically think death- or would you? I don’t know- I certainly wouldn’t- even now, even after studying Hamlet. I would think nice thoughts. In fact the other day when browsing around a shop- I see some framed words. “To Sleep, perchance to dream” – How nice I think, to put it over a bed maybe- in the guest room. I don’t however buy it, instead I buy “If Music be the food of love play on” – for the kitchen because the colours worked better and even though it relates obviously to music and not food- It works well in the kitchen and so that’s where it lives.
But that’s life - words you write, sayings you keep in your mind are generally beautiful and mean something to you and why not – if you want “To sleep, perchance to dream” – to mean what you want it to mean then why shouldn’t it- or do we respect the author twice over and say no- he meant it to be about dying and so we must only use it in that sense?!
How would you feel if it was your work?- would Shakespear be turning in his grave that his most famous lines were being hung up in all places they shouldn’t be?
Does it de-value the brand? Or emphasize it. In my mind words are there to be celebrated – I know if I ever am lucky enough to have a famous quote – I don’t think I would mind it hanging up in someone’s house relating to something completely different to what I originally meant! I would just be glad that somebody took notice!
The same to me applies to snippets of work (I mean writing in this context) When I read out a sample of my new book to anyone or my writing group and I get a flurry of questions back about things that happened to the protagonist before this passage and after I cant help but think that context is everything and that sometimes we judge a book too much by just a small passage we ready because we haven’t read the whole thing yet and maybe at the end there is something we need to know so that it all makes sense?! Maybe! Or maybe it is just a book that does not interest us and we should stop there because life is too short and too precious to waste our time reading something we know we are not going to enjoy.