Hamlet Uncut Erik Draper’s article on fixing pruning mistakes (“Oh, No! Now What?,” Fine Gardening #137, Jan/Feb 2011,p. 44) addresses the anxiety that gardeners have always felt about cutting off their plants’ branches. It is a little-known fact that in the original version of Hamlet, William Shakespeare has his main character ruminate on the fear of an unforeseen and irreversible outcome that pruning shrubs and trees often instills in gardeners. Although scholars still debate about why it was changed, here is the Act III soliloquy of Hamlet the way the Bard intended it: [Enter HAMLET, with Felcos]To prune, or not to prune: that is the question:Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to sufferThe slings and arrows of outrageous bushes,Or to take loppers to a sea of branches,And by cutting shape them? To cut: to prune;Lop off; and by a cut to say we endThe crossed branches and the wayward growthThat shrubs are heir to, ’tis a consummationDevoutly to be wish’d. To cut, to prune;To prune: perchance to kill: ay, there’s the rub;For in those cuts of wood what branches may fallWhen we have chopped off the wrong limb,Must give us pause: there’s the respectThat makes a calamity of so many shrubs;For who would bear the whips and stems of yew,The lilac’s spread, the crape myrtle’s floppiness,The pine’s undisguised spread, the rose’s disease, The invasiveness of privet and the spaceThat holly turned into a hedge takes,When he himself might his border shapeWith sharpened pruner? Who would brambles bear,To cringe and plant under an ugly shrub,But that the dread of some uglier shrub,The lopsided woody from whose shapeNo beauty returns, puzzles the willAnd makes us rather bear those shrubs we haveThan shape them to something we know not of?Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;And thus the native urge to pruningIs sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,And enterprises of great pith and momentWith this regard their currents turn awry,And lose the name of pruning. View the discussion thread.