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[Update: added a second stanza with additional clues]
[Update 2: changed title, added some clues, added a third stanza, and started a bounty]

I am the question that no unerring answer knows
The thought of which does ofttimes give my asker pause
When resolution wavers, he'll reflect
On which solution heretofore considered is correct
Of heartache, of fortune, of death and dreams
In this oration, life's greatest riddles are the themes

You hear me spoken time and time again
For centuries my lasting magic still remains
Fit for a prince, uttered in earnest, sometimes in jest
Of all my kind I surely am one of the best

Now there's a bounty on my head
A bit more work, and I'll be dead
Come on Puzzling, you can win
If you remember all your sins
I puzzle the will, confound the sense
'Tis time to end all the suspense

What am I?


Remarks:

  1. The bounty and coveted green check mark will be given to the first correct answer that explains most or all of the clues in the riddle.

  2. There is only one correct answer, which I'm pretty sure will appear fairly obvious and straightforward once it is pointed out. If you have an idea for a solution but are unsure if it's correct, it probably isn't.

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Your question is "What am I?" I'm guessing the answer is

Hamlet's question:
"to be or not to be, that is the question".

I am the question that no unerring answer knows
The thought of which does ofttimes give my asker pause

Both choices are open; both have pros and cons. The question is reflective, hence "give my asker pause".
"... Must give us pause."

When resolution wavers, he'll reflect
On which solution heretofore considered is correct

Regardless of which is chosen (to be / not to be), the decision is questioned when the resolution to go through with it wavers.
"... 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: ..."

Of heartache, of fortune, of death and dreams
In this oration, life's greatest riddles are the themes

In Shakespeare's original, Hamlet's question is framed against his father's murder (heartache). It's been a long time since I studied Hamlet, so a lot of this is rusty, but fortune may be a reference to his uncle assuming the throne. Death and dreams are part of the line "to sleep, perchance to dream".
On fortune: "... Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, ...".
On heartache, death and dreams: "... The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks That Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep, To sleep, perchance to Dream; ..."

You hear me spoken time and time again
For centuries my lasting magic still remains

An allusion to the line "to be or not to be" being used in other contexts, or perhaps being quoted repeatedly due to the play being popular.

Fit for a prince, uttered in earnest, sometimes in jest
Of all my kind I surely am one of the best

The character voicing the line was Prince Hamlet. Earnest vs jest may be an allusion to how the line is used by other people in other contexts. Also Shakespeare (Hamlet's playwright) is "widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist", and among his plays, the line "to be or not to be" is one of the best known.

Now there's a bounty on my head
A bit more work, and I'll be dead

"For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,"

Come on Puzzling, you can win
If you remember all your sins

"... The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons Be all my sins remembered."

I puzzle the will, confound the sense
'Tis time to end all the suspense

"... The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will, And makes us rather bear those ills we have, ..."
The First Quarto version uses "... puzzles the brain, and doth confound the sense, ...".
About 'Tis: "... Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind ...".

References taken from

wikipedia, First Folio text except for one First Quarto quote.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're probably right but need to give details with reference to the soliloquy. For example, the first line is "To be or not to be, that is the question" so surely the question is "to be or not to be" rather than "What am I?" Also a pause is mentioned and there are separate specific mentions of heartache, fortune, death and dreams . See here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_be,_or_not_to_be $\endgroup$ – hexomino Feb 15 '16 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ @BigBlackBox Oops, thanks for correcting the spoiler-box markers. $\endgroup$ – Lawrence Feb 15 '16 at 11:24
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    $\begingroup$ @hexomino Thanks for the tips. My reference "What am I?" was quoting the OP's stated question directly (the part in bold in the question text). I'll go back and try to match up the rest. $\endgroup$ – Lawrence Feb 15 '16 at 11:26
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    $\begingroup$ @hexomino Your link is the same one I noted in my original answer in the last 'spoiler' box, but there were a lot more keywords in the text that I could have referenced. Done now. Thanks again! $\endgroup$ – Lawrence Feb 15 '16 at 11:47
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, sorry, I understand what you mean and completely missed the link (I need to read more carefully). +1 from me because I think you are right. $\endgroup$ – hexomino Feb 15 '16 at 11:51
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First thought on an answer was literally

"A mistake"

However, since I need to find the question, maybe it is

What's wrong?

I am the question that no unerring answer knows

The answer to this question can always be something else, and usually it's not just one thing.

The thought of which does ofttimes give my asker pause

When trying to find out what's wrong, the person thinking the question has to take a pause.

When resolution wavers, he'll reflect On which solution heretofore considered is correct

When unsure about a solution, the question "what's wrong with my current solutions" could be asked.

Of heartache, of torment, suffering and dreams

heartache, torment and suffering - for all of these the question "what's wrong" might be asked (or "what was wrong"). If we fail at achieving dreams, we could ask "what's wrong with me" (lets not get into discussing if we should ;) )

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice try - I like it! But it's not it. After all, a mistake is not a question... $\endgroup$ – Big Black Box Feb 14 '16 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ @BigBlackBox edited with new guess. $\endgroup$ – Piotr Pytlik Feb 14 '16 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ Still not it, sorry. A sort-of-hint: the correct answer is such that when one finds it, it'll be pretty easy to become convinced (and to convince others) that it's correct with a high degree of certainty. $\endgroup$ – Big Black Box Feb 14 '16 at 1:29
  • $\begingroup$ I added a second stanza with more clues. $\endgroup$ – Big Black Box Feb 14 '16 at 9:06
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Could it be . . .

A paradox?


I am the question that no unerring answer knows

A paradox presents, from the title, a question with no answer, so to answer it would be to err.

The thought of which does ofttimes give my asker pause
When resolution wavers, he'll reflect

It is often instinctual to try to answer a paradox, before realizing the inherent, and multi-directional contradiction.

On which solution heretofore considered is correct

In order to realize the nature of contradiction of a paradox, both sides have first to be considered as the solution.

Of heartache, of torment, suffering and dreams
In this oration, life's greatest riddles are the themes

That enumeration could be considered some of life's greatest subjective riddles, but surely paradoxes are objectively so — they're unanswerable!

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  • $\begingroup$ A paradox is still not a question I'm afraid, but nice try. I've added a second stanza with additional clues. $\endgroup$ – Big Black Box Feb 14 '16 at 9:04
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What about:

This question itself?

The tradition of this site and its users is said in the first stanza, of what the asker of the question and the answerers' experience is when the answer is still unknown.

The second stanza is about any question on Puzzling.SE. Sometimes it's a puzzle, other times it's a riddle(a joke question). Any unworthy question is either tagged as duplicate, or downvoted to hell.

The third stanza is about this specific question. What is going to happen soon, is described in poetic terms. If you connect together the wrong(but still half-correct) answers, you will arrive at the correct answer.

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