Can you recite Hamlet's 'to be or not to be' soliloquy quicker than the fastest talker?
By Rachel Swatman
Toronto-born Sean Shannon certainly has a way with words; he can speak articulately at a baffling speed.
The Canadian earned the Guinness World Records title of Fastest talker back in 1995, after reciting the famous Hamlet 'to be, or not to be' soliloquy in a time of 23.8 seconds.
The monologue, penned by William Shakespeare, consists of 260 words. This means that Sean spoke at a rate of 655 words per minute!
To put that into perspective, most people speak at a rate of about 60 words per minute – around a word a second. In an excited state, a person may reach 120 to 150 words per minute.
According to Sean, breath control is the most important thing to focus on when training for this challenge.
"Practice holding your breath so you can get as many words as possible out before you have to breath," he said. "Breathing definitely slows down your average words per minute."
Sean's record has stood for 20 years but Guinness World Records no longer accepts applications for the title.
It is currently being researched by the Records Management Team here at Guinness World Records, who are discussing ways in which we could continue to monitor the record now that it has become extremely difficult to measure and verify attempts accurately.
If you’d like to see how you fare against Sean’s time, below is the soliloquy from Act III Scene I of Hamlet.
To be, or not to be: that is the question; Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and, by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep; perchance to dream: ay there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause. There's the respect that makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of dispriz'd love, the law's delay, The insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn no traveller returns, puzzles the will, And makes us rather bear those ills we have, Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. Soft you now, The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remember'd.
In June 2017, Sean visited the Guinness World Records headquarters in London, UK to demonstrate his talking talents on Facebook Live.