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A rub is a difficulty.

The origin is unknown and it is most known for Shakespeare's use of it in Hamlet....

"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;"

In Shakespeare's time a rub was an area of rough, or uneven ground, one might encounter while attempting to play a game of bowls (a popular game in the Elizabethan era, as the famous account of Sir Francis Drake's game of bowls confirms).

A rub was a problematic patch of turf that would sabotage or deflect ones attempt to roll the bowl with accuracy. Thus in Shakespeare's usage in Hamlet's soliloquy it means, the centre or source of the problem, that knotty or disagreeable fact or reality, that makes a problem a problem.

In the speech Hamlet is contemplating suicide. And he is inclined to take his own life, due to the sleep -- the eternal rest from his suffering -- that doing so would grant him. But what "dreams" will come to him in such a sleep? i.e. Might there be an afterlife that will have to be encountered if he kills himself, and if so, what is its character?

The thought of this possibility stays his hand from taking his life, it is the source of the problem that is preventing him from going down a route his will initially wanted to take him. Hence, "ay there's the rub."

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13y ago
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12y ago

It means "that's the problem." It famously occurs in Hamlet's "To Be or not to be" speech in Act 3 Scene 1 of Hamlet: "To die, to sleep. To sleep . . . perchance to dream; ay, there's the rub!"

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9y ago

This phrase from Shakespeare's Hamlet means "therein lies the problem or dilemma".

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Q: What does Shakespeare's phrase there's the rub mean?
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