Paul McCartney Said ‘Hamlet’ Inspired The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’

TL;DR:

  • Paul McCartney had a dream that partly inspired The Beatles’ “Let It Be.”
  • Paul said there’s a connection between “Let It Be” and a passage from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
  • Audiences in the United States and the United Kingdom reacted differently to the song.
The Beatles' Paul McCartney holding a guitar
The Beatles’ Paul McCartney | PA Images via Getty Images

The Beatles and William Shakespeare are two of England’s main cultural exports. Paul McCartney revealed he had to learn passages from Hamlet when he was in school. Subsequently, a passage from the play inspired The Beatles’ “Let It Be.”

The dream Paul McCartney had about his mother that partly inspired The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’

According to Yahoo! Life, Paul discussed “Let It Be” in his 2021 book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present. He was going through a rough patch when he had a dream about his deceased mother, Mary McCartney. “In this dream, seeing my mum’s beautiful, kind face and being with her in a peaceful place was very comforting,” he recalled. 

“She seemed to realize I was worried about what was going on in my life and what would happen, and she said to me, ‘Everything will be all right. Let it be,'” Paul continued. The dream helped inspire “Let It Be.”

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The line from William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ that influenced The Beatles’ Paul McCartney

Paul discussed the connection between “Let It Be” and Hamlet. “One interesting thing about ‘Let It Be’ that I was reminded of only recently is that, while I was studying English literature at the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys with my favorite teacher, Alan Durband, I read Hamlet,” Paul recalled. “In those days you had to learn speeches by heart because you had to be able to carry them into the exam and quote them.”

Paul noted a certain phrase appears in Hamlet. “There are a couple of lines from late in the play: ‘O, I could tell you — But let it be. Horatio, I am dead,'” he quoted. “I suspect those lines had subconsciously planted themselves in my memory.”

William Shakespeare wearing an earring
William Shakespeare | Bettmann / Contributor

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How ‘Let It Be’ performed in the United States and the United Kingdom

“Let It Be” became a massive hit. For two weeks, it topped the Billboard Hot 100. The song stayed on the chart for 14 weeks altogether. “Let It Be” appeared on The Beatles’ album Let It Be. The album topped the Billboard 200 for four of its 79 weeks on the chart.

According to The Official Charts Company, “Let It Be” was somewhat less popular in the United Kingdom. There, the song peaked at No. 2 and stayed on the chart for 17 weeks. Meanwhile, the song’s parent album was No. 1 for three of its 53 weeks on the chart.

“Let It Be” is one of The Beatles’ most famous songs — and it might not be the same without Hamlet.

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