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To Be or Not To Be Film Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 23 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of To Be or Not To Be.
This section contains 596 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)

Symbols

"To Be or Not To Be"

Joseph is starring in Hamlet when the film begins. He is especially proud of his "To Be or Not To Be" soliloquy. Maria recognizes his pride and writes to Stanislav to walk out in the middle of that speech to meet her backstage. She also knows that the length of the speech will keep Joseph from investigating too quickly.

The "To Be or Not To Be" speech and the events occurring during it are symbolic of the strained relationship between Maria and Joseph. Maria chooses this moment because she realizes that it will drive him crazy. Although she loves her husband, she also wants him to remain extremely jealous.

The phrase "To Be or Not To Be" can also symbolize the uncertainty of life. Each character must be willing to sacrifice his or her life for the sake of Poland. They all make their sacrifices in different ways, but not one person knows how everything will turn out. Rather than giving up, Maria, Joseph, and the others become stronger, more persistent, and more creative in the face of possible defeat and despair.

Disguises

In To Be or Not To Be, every character wears a disguise at some point. The disguises are symbolic of the lengths they will go to in order to save Poland. As they try to save Poland, each person must pretend to be someone else so that they can spy on and outwit the Nazis. The first person we see in disguise, however, is Professor Siletsky who is actually working for the Nazis and pretending to be on a top secret mission to help Poland.

Later scenes show that Maria must disguise herself in order to outwit Siletsky. The only way to find out his secrets and kill him is for her to be with him at all times. Siletsky quickly falls for this beautiful woman, and he is willing to let her do whatever she wishes. Maria's disguise may be the most dangerous since she becomes trapped in his suite until someone can save her.

Joseph shows his love for Maria by playing many roles to save her. First, he must pretend to be Colonel Ehrhardt so that they can trick Siletsky into giving them the list that he created. After he discovers that Siletsky has another list, they murder Siletsky, and Joseph must take on the disguise of Siletsky as well. Although Joseph is not completely successful, he uses his disguise to cover who he is and to save his wife and Poland.

The List

When Siletsky is in Britain, he becomes friends with the Polish men of the R.A.F. Siletsky claims to be a displaced professor from Poland who is being sent back in order to work on a top secret British mission. After convincing the young men of his story, he offers to try to contact their friends and family while he is there. Then, he makes a list that is symbolic of all the death lists made by Nazis during World War II.

Siletsky's list puts everyone on it in grave danger. He knows that these families are likely for the freedom of Poland since they are related to these brave young freedom fighters. Only Stanislav realizes Siletsky's true purpose after Siletsky professes to never have heard of the great Maria Tura, a name every good Polish person knows.

Many similar lists were made during World War II. The Nazi death lists are infamous. Millions of people from Jews to those who simply stood in the way of the Nazis were put on these lists to be sent to concentration camps and murdered.

This section contains 596 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)