Hamlet Quotes

“A little more than kin and less than kind” [Hamlet, 1.2.67] Hamlet says this in an aside. It means that Claudius is both his uncle and stepfather, but a bad person. Here, kind has three meanings: the modern sense meaning “nice”, the original meaning of “ancestral family”, and meaning that developed during Shakespeare’s lifetime of “natural” or “proper” in manner. Hamlet eludes that Claudius is not a nice person, not a direct blood relative, and involved in less-than proper or natural relationships (like with Gertrude).
“O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt.” [Hamlet,1.2.133] Hamlet says this in his first soliloquy. This is the first time he speaks about suicide, wishing that his stained (defiled) skin would just fall off his bones and decompose. Hamlet is upset at his mother’s marriage to Claudius, and not being allowed to return to Wittenberg for school. He’s so upset with his mother, that he just wants to give up, but later in the soliloquy states that he can’t commit suicide for religious reasons.
“…frailty, thy name is woman!” [Hamlet, 1.2.150] Hamlet says this in his first soliloquy. This is said about his mother, and is both a misogynistic comment as well as one regarding his mothers incestuousness. It essentially means that woman are weaker than men, but in context suggests this is meant on a moral grounds regarding relationships.
“Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?” [Hamlet, 3.1. 131-32] Hamlet says this to Ophelia. Here, nunnery is an ironic double entendre, meaning both nunnery, and slang for brothel. He wants her to go to a nunnery so that she won’t give birth to sinners (like himself, his mother, Claudius, or perhaps any child born from a *****).
“This above all: to thine own self be true.” [Polonius, 1.3.84] A remarkably brilliant quote from the dim-witted Polonius, spoken to Laertes before he leaves for France.
“In my mind’s eye” [Hamlet, 1.2.247] Hamlet speaks this phrase, coined by Shakespeare, he tells Horatio that he can see his dead father only in his head. This is before Hamlet has seen the Ghost, and in the part of the play where Horatio tells him he has seen his father as a Ghost.
“Something is wrotten in the state of Denmark.” [Marcellus, 1.4.100] Marcellus, a Danish soldier, says this line to Horatio, after Hamlet has forbid them to follow the Ghost with him. It lets the audience know that something’s up, and sets the stage for the rest of the play to unfold (immediately after is the scene with Hamlet and the Ghost).
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” [Polonius, 2.2.223-24] Polonius says this in an aside during a conversation with Hamlet. Immediately preceding this line Hamlet is mocking Polonius by naming all of the physical attributes of “an old man” (Polonius), and by saying Polonius could grow as old as he if he could go backwards in time. Here, Polonius interprets what Hamlet is saying as nutty, but also recognizes a method to the madness (that Hamlet seems confident and composed in what he’s saying even if it makes no sense to Polonius). The quote also brings up the issue of weather or not Hamlet’s madness is feigned, perhaps a form of method acting.
“O villain, villain, smiling damn├Ęd villain!” & “…one may smile and smile and be a villain.” [Hamlet, 1.5.113 & 115] Hamlet says these two lines in his soliloquy that immediately follows the Ghost’s exit. The villain is Claudius, who Hamlet has just discovered murdered his father. The fact that Claudius is all smiles is an example of the theme of deception in the play, that Claudius not only deceived Hamlet, but all of Denmark.
“O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” [Hamlet, 2.2.577] Hamlet says this in his soliloquy that ends Act 2 scene 2. At this point, he has discovered that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are spying on him for Claudius. Hamlet has asked a group of traveling players (actors) to do a speech for him. Hamlet is shamed that he has displayed less passion in avenging his father’s murder than the actor. In this soliloquy Hamlet bashes himself for not having the gall to do anything to Claudius yet.
“…brevity is the soul of wit” [Polonius, 2.2.97] Polonius says this proverbial and ironic line in presenting his findings of Hamlet’s madness to the King and Queen. The irony lies in Polonius’ character who thinks himself a man of great cunning and wit, as well as in his words preceding this. He gives a long winded introduction, full of superfluous words and contradictory rhetoric, but then says this perfectly brilliant statement, the contrast of which is very humorous.
“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” [Hamlet, 3.2.18-19] Hamlet says this to the actors, telling them that their lines have a reason for existing, so they should have a natural action and emotion as well. Their actions should correspond to the text and vice versa. This is an example of Shakespeare teaching the audience about acting, basically that they should keep it real and get into what they are doing to be believable.
“The glass of fashion and the mold of form, th’ observed of all observers.” [Ophelia, 3.1.167-68] Ophelia says this after Hamlet’s “get thee to a nunnery” bit, and basically has just witnessed the man she loves acting crazy and telling her he doesn’t love her. Here, she describes Hamlet (pre-madness) as having been the mirror (or model) of proper behavior, every bit the gentleman, and the model of attractiveness and self-disposition. (This Hamlet she describes is quite different from the one we see)
This is the very coinage of your brain (II, iv, 157) Gertrude
O Hamlet, thou has cleft my brain in twain (III, iv, 177) Gertrude
I must be cruel only to be kind; thus bad begins, and worse remains behind (III, iv, 199+) Hamlet
I essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft (III, iv, 209+) Hamlet
A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm (IV, iii, 29+) Hamlet
And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe, but even his mother shall uncharge the practice and call it accident (IV, vii, 73+) Claudius
That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once (V, i, 75) Hamlet
Alas, poor Yorick! (V, i, 177) Hamlet
I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not (with all their quantity of love) Make up my sum. (V, i, 270+) Hamlet
The cat will mew, and dog will have his day (V, i, 295) Hamlet
There’s a divinity that shapes our ends (V, ii, 11) Hamlet
‘Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes between the pass and fell incensed points of mighty opposites. (V, ii, 66+) Hamlet
Here, thou incentuous, murd’rous, damned Dane, drink off this potion! (V, ii, 345) Hamlet
Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet. Laertes
A little more than kin, and less that kind! (I, ii, 68) Hamlet
Frailty, thy name is woman!/ A little month, or ere those shoes were old/ WIth which she followed my poor father’s body… (I, ii, 52+) Hamlet
I shall not look upon his like again (I, ii, 198) Hamlet
Perhaps he loves you now, …/ …his will is not his own, For he himself is ubject to his birth (I, iii, 17, 20-21) Laertes
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice (I, iii, 72) Polonius
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;/ For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry /This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man (I, iii, 79+) Polonius
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. (I, iv, 100) Marcellus
I am thy father’s spirit, Doom for a certain term to walk the night, …/Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature/ Are burnt and purged away. (I, v, 32+) Spirit
Murder most foul, as in the best it is: But this most foul, strage, and unnatural.. (I, v, 32+) Spirit
‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, A serpent stung me; …/The serpent that did sting thy father’s life / Now wears his crown (I, v, 14+) Spirit
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive Against thy mother aught (I, v, 92+) Spirit
O most pernicious woman! (I, v, 112) Hamlet
This time is out of joint. O cursed spite /That ever I was born to set it right! (I, v, 215) Hamlet
By heaven, it is as proper to our age To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions /As it is common for the younger sort /To lack discretion (II, i, 126+) Polonius
…since brevity is the soul of wit, /And tedioiusness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief. Your noble son is mad. Mad call it it; for to define true madness What is’t but to be nothing else but mad? (II, ii, 96+) Polonius
…for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison. (II, ii, 265) Hamlet
What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!…Man delights not me– no, nor woman neither… (II, ii, 319+) Hamlet
I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw. (II, ii, 388+) Hamlet
I’ll have these players /Play something like the murder of my father /Before mine uncle. I’ll observe his looks, /I’ll test him to the quest; if he be but blench, I know my course. (II, ii, 602+) Hamlet
The play’s the thing /Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King. (II, ii, 612+) Hamlet
To be, or not to be, that is the question: (III, i, 64) Hamlet
But that the dread of something after death– The undiscovered 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? (II, i, 86+) Hamlet
Get thee to a nunnery (III, i, 126) Hamlet
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen. May one be pardoned and retain the offense? (III, iii, 58-59) Claudius
Now might I do it pat, now he is praying; And now I’ll do’t. And so he goes to heaven, and so am I revenged? (III, iii, 76+) Hamlet
…makes marriage vows as false as dicers’ oaths. (III, iv, 53+) Hamlet
For this relief much thanks. (I, i, 8) Francisco
O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt (I, ii, 133) Hamlet
A countenance more in sorrow than in anger (I, ii, 247) Horatio
…the primrose path of dalliance (I, iii, 54) Ophelia
More matter with less art. (II, ii, 103) Gertrude
Use every man after his desert and who shall ‘scape whipping? (II, ii, 555-57) Hamlet
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I! (II, ii, 577) Hamlet
What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba? (II, ii, 586) Hamlet
…the devil hath power /T’ assume a pleasing shape (II, ii, 628-29) Hamlet
The glass of fashion and the mold of form, /Th’ observed of all observers (III, i, 167-168) Ophelia
A king of shreds and patches (III, iv, 117) Hamlet
…’tis the sport to have the enginer /Hoist with his own petard… (III, iv, 229-30) Hamlet
How all occasions do inform me thus (IV, iv, 34) Hamlet
There’s such divinity doth hedge a king (IV, v, 138) Claudius
Sweets to the sweet (V, i, 254) Gertrude