Thoughts Story

Thought of the week: The readiness is all

This week Michelle Terry talks about preparing for life after lockdown, and life beyond death – inspired by the speech in Hamlet

4 minute read

Quote says 'if it be not now, yet it will come- the readiness is all' from Hamlet, an actor in armour is running in the middle of the quote

Dominic Cummings aside, there is so much talk about getting ready at the moment: ready to open the schools, ready to open the shops, ready to track and trace; certainly all of the conversations I am having are about how to get ready.

But Hamlet isn’t talking about getting ready for life beyond lockdown… he is talking about preparing for death.

The word death is also mentioned a lot at the moment; the physical death of someone, the physical threat to our own lives. But there is little conversation about the meaning of death, preparing for death, the inevitability of death, the ubiquitous nature of death, death in all her forms.

The stories we are hearing every day are so desperately sad. They are painful; not just about those who have lost their lives, but the unspoken sense of things dying; the death of life as we knew it, the death of morality, the death of the planet.

The death of assumptions…We make life more bearable by pretending to know what is coming, but predictions and strategy are always a best guess because the truth is – no-one really knows. And it’s terrifying. And the unknown is in technicolour right now.

All we do know is that ‘all that lives must die’.

We know there is a sparrow falling.

And maybe there is a special providence in it.

Providence: the belief that God or nature has a part to play in everything that happens.

It doesn’t matter whether I believe in God, or indeed whether I believe in nature. Whether I side with Dominic Cummings or whether I don’t. Whether I accept the way things are or whether I fight them with all my might.

Death is happening anyway.

All of the time.

Moment to moment.

We don’t talk about death in our house. It frightens me and I avoid it.

But that didn’t stop my little girl tapping her dad on the shoulder and saying: ‘don’t die yet dad’.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

— Ecclesiastes

‘If it be not now, yet it will come’

But ‘don’t die… Yet, Dad.’

In the face of daily existential questions, as I grapple to find meaning in the now and in the life-beyond, avoiding the acceptance of death, in all her forms, has certainly kept me busy but it’s also kept me divinely dissatisfied.

I wonder: if I was ready for dying, I might also be ready for living.

What’s done is done, but what is yet to do lies ahead of us; Shakespeare’s ‘undiscovered country’ is not just about what happens beyond death. ‘The undiscovered country’ is waiting for us moment to moment to moment. and ‘the readiness is all’.

‘The undiscovered country’... It could be the start of a most wonderful adventure.

An illustration of a lit candle, dripping wax.

There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come – the readiness is all.

— Hamlet



Each week during the UK’s current Coronavirus crisis, our Artistic Director Michelle Terry shares her thought of the week.

Using Shakespeare’s language, Michelle reflects on the individual and universal meaning of the words. By giving personal and emotional insight, she uses the quote to relate to, and express, the mood of this uncertain time.


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