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To Be or Not to Be (1942)

1hr 39mins
Directed by
Ernst Lubitsch
Carole Lombard ,
Jack Benny,
Robert Stack

After the screening, join us for a discussion about Shakespeare and satire, featuring film historian and Brandeis professor Thomas Doherty, civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate, moderated by Cheryl Eagan-Donovan, award-winning writer, director, and producer.

Ernst Lubitsch’s nervy send-up of both the artifice of theater and the theater of politics stars Jack Benny as a would-be Hamlet and Carole Lombard (in her final screen appearance) as his actress wife. When these married Shakespearean players become caught up in a dangerous spy plot in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, they are faced with the true realities of war. 

Ushered into production during the height of Germany’s power in World War II, the film is a bold, comic high-wire act that manages to balance political satire, romance, slapstick, and suspense. Considered by many to be Lubitsch’s greatest film, To Be or Not to Be is an enduring classic that ingeniously pulls the curtain back and forth on art and life.


Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, best known for its annual free performances on Boston Common, is a non-profit theater organization founded in 1996, dedicated to artistic excellence, accessibility, and education. CSC’s Free Shakespeare on the Common has served over one million audience members over its 25-year history and has become a beloved summer tradition enjoyed by more than 50,000 people annually. After a hiatus in 2020 because of the Covid pandemic, CSC presented The Tempest on Boston Common in the summer of 2021. In addition to its live theatre productions, CSC has also presented a variety of virtual programs, most particularly in the past year. The company also runs the CSC Academy, which provides education programs for middle and high school students and training programs for opportunities for early-career performers. For more information visit

Please note this screening will include Open Captioning. If you have questions about accessibility or would like to make any disability related accommodation requests, please email .


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