Hamlet Quotes

A little more than kin and less than kind. I.ii, 64 Hamlet: Hamlet means to say that since Claudius has married his mother, Claudius is now more than a relative – “kin” – to him because he is now his step father. But he expresses his disapproval of Claudius marrying his mother hastily by saying that it was not a civilized – “kind” – thing to do.The word “kind” is foregrounded because Hamlet puns on the two meanings of the word ‘kind’ :1. It was not kindness or genuine love which prompted Claudius to marry Gertrude but his own lust.2. Hamlet wishes to emphasize straight away that he and Claudius although related are altogether of a different character.
Seems, madam! Nay, it is. I know not “seems.” I.ii, 76 Hamlet: Hamlet has just arrived at Claudius’s court. The sullen and grieving Hamlet appears dressed in all black, much to the annoyance of Claudius and Gertrude, who have exchanged their mourning clothes for lavish court costumes.Although initially reserved, Hamlet lashes out at his mother when she asks him why he should still be so upset when everyone else has come to terms with the death of his father
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitableseem to me all the uses of this world! I.ii, 133-134 Hamlet: Hamlet’s disgust with “all the uses of this world” foreshadows the problem of the play: because he doesn’t see the value of action, he doesn’t take action. This suggestion that nothing is valuable is the attitude Hamlet must overcome in order to avenge his father.Despite his youth, high rank, talents, and popularity among the people of Denmark, Hamlet is deeply jaded about life. The reason has been a source of endless commentary.
Frailty, thy name is woman! I.ii, 146 Hamlet: Hamlet, in his first soliloquy, recalls tender scenes between his mother, Queen Gertrude, and her deceased husband. What irks Hamlet is that, after his mother had seemed so sexually dependent on the old king, she could turn around within a month of his death and marry her brother-in-law Claudius, who, Hamlet claims, is “no more like my father/ Than I to Hercules”It’s not so much that Hamlet is a misogynist as that his mother’s sexuality has poisoned his own, as we shall see in his relations to Ophelia
Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral baked meats/Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables. I.ii, 179-180 Hamlet: Hamlet continually emphasizes how soon his mother married Claudius after the death of his father.With sarcastic exaggeration, he claims that Gertrude and Claudius’s wedding occurred so soon after the funeral that the baked meats for the funeral were still good to eat at the wedding-a “thrifty” (cheap, efficient) bargain. Eating cold left-overs from a funeral for a wedding is far from festive, and thus “coldly” furnishes forth the marriage tables. Hamlet inverts expectations: a funeral would be cold, a wedding hot.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be,/ Forloan 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, 75-80 Polonious:
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. I.iv, 89 Marcellus: Marcellus, shaken by the many recent disturbing events and no doubt angered (as is Hamlet) by Claudius’s mismanagement of the body politic, astutely notes that Denmark is festering with moral and political corruption. Horatio replies “Heaven will direct it” (91), meaning heaven will guide the state of Denmark to health and stability.
Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. I.v, 24 Ghost: Take revenge for his horrible murder, that crime against nature.
(My uncle/) Aye, that incestuous, that adulterate beast(two speakers here – you name the second)I.v, 40-41 Hamlet and Ghost:
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soulcontrive/ Against thy mother aught. Leave her to Heaven/ And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge. To prick and sting her. I.v, 85-88 Ghost: Don’t loose yourself on the path of revenge. Try not to hurt your mother, let God decide her fate and leave her with them.
The time is out of joint. Oh, cursed spite/That ever I was born to set it right! I.v, 189-190 Hamlet: Hamlet has just finished talking to the ghost and finding out that his father was murdered by his uncle, Claudius. The ghost has left and Hamlet swears Marcellus and Horatio to an oath not to reveal what they have seen or what Hamlet is trying to do, even if he pretends to be mad
What majesty should be, what dutyis,/Why day is day, night night, and time is time,/ Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time./ Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit/ And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,/ I will be brief.II.ii, 87-92 Polonius: Sir and madam, to make grand speeches about what majesty is, what service is, or why day is day, night is night, and time is time is just a waste of a lot of day, night, and time. Therefore, since the essence of wisdom is not talking too much, I’ll get right to the point here. Y
Though this be madness, yet there ismethod in’t. II.ii, 207 Polonius: (to himself) There’s a method to his madness. (to HAMLET) Will you step outside, my lord?
Why, then ’tis none to you, for there isnothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so./ II.ii, 255-256 Hamlet: Well, then it isn’t one to you, since nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it. And to me, Denmark is a prison.
What a piece of work is a man!/Hownoble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and/admirable! In action how like and angel!In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the/ world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man/ delights notme – no nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so./ II.ii, 315-321 Hamlet: Hamlet, speaking with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, explains that he has lost all joy, and although he can still appreciate the grandeur of humanity conceptually, he no longer derives happiness from human interaction. The corrupt moral condition of Denmark is to blame. Hamlet’s reflections on the nobility of man illustrate his profound intellect, curiosity and idealism. The significance of his moral philosophy is made that much greater by the company he keeps, for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern — also students of philosophy at Wittenberg — are unmoved by Hamlet’s words. Thoughts on human nature do not trouble Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as they do Hamlet, and they are content in their ignorance.
The play’s the thing/ Wherein I’ll catchthe conscience of the King. II.ii, 633-634 Hamlet: When exclaiming “The play’s the thing!” we’re seldom asked the embarrassing question of what “thing” we mean, exactly. Prince Hamlet, however, has something specific in mind. To elicit visible proof of what a rather visible ghost has told him—that his uncle, King Claudius, murdered his father, the former king—the prince turns playwright. His task: to sneak a few telling lines into a play about regicide his uncle will be watching at court, and to wait for Claudius to flinch. If Hamlet’s plan works, he’ll be convinced of both the ghost’s veracity and the king’s guilt and will (theoretically) feel better about paying his uncle back in kind.The plot is intricate and bizarre, but Hamlet is relying on good, solid Renaissance psychology. Playwrights often claimed that their work encouraged virtue in upstanding citizens and caught the conscience of malefactors. About ten years after the first production of Hamlet, playwright Thomas Heywood edified the reading public with this real-life tale: During the performance of a particularly gruesome tragedy, in which the actors staged the murder of a man by driving a nail through his temple, a woman in the audience rose up distractedly. She “oft sighed out these words: Oh my husband, my husband!” The woman subsequently confessed all and was burned for having murdered her spouse with “a great nail” through “the brainpan.”
Madness in great ones must notunwatched go. III.i, 196 Claudius: Again suggests Claudius’s fear that Hamlet may be conspiring against him. This is also a reference to a larger mistrust of mental incapacity in the “great souled.” Madness in the ordinary is of concern to themselves, principally; madness in the great is a danger to society.Compare Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear, which in a sense is a dramatization of “madness [or folly] in great ones.”King Claudius’s concluding statement that “madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go” is extremely ironic. On the one hand, it’s false because the audience knows Hamlet’s madness is feigned; instead, it’s Hamlet’s sanity that Claudius must watch out for. On the other hand, the statement is arguably true when applied to Claudius himself, as Claudius’s mad lust for power drove him to fratricide.
Suit the action to the word, the word tothe action, with this special observance, that you/ o’erstep no the modesty of nature. III.ii, 19-21 Hamlet: Hamlet lectures the actors who will soon perform for his stepfather [see TRIPPINGLY ON THE TONGUE]. As director, he expounds the “purpose of playing,” which, from the invention of theater, has been to hold “the mirror up to nature.” Here, Hamlet echoes classical authors, who insisted that drama be a form of truth, not mere entertainment. Playwrights and players should strive to present action in the most verisimilar manner, without exaggeration or distortion, without bombast or excessive sentimentality. In the theatrical mirror we see our virtues and vices reflected back to us in their true shape: that’s the theater’s moral function. Defensive dramatists, who had to contend with accusations of corrupting the masses, were fond of pointing out that their productions did indeed have the effect Hamlet advertises
The lady doth protest too much,methinks. III.ii, 240 Gertrude: One of the more interesting quotes by Shakespeare: it’s almost always misquoted as “Methinks the lady doth protest too much,” Queen Gertrude’s line is both drier than the misquotation (thanks to the delayed “methinks”) and much more ironic. Prince Hamlet’s question is intended to smoke out his mother, to whom, as he intended, this Player Queen bears some striking resemblances [see THE PLAY’S THE THING]. The queen in the play, like Gertrude, seems too deeply attached to her first husband to ever even consider remarrying; Gertrude, however, after the death of Hamlet’s father, has remarried. We don’t know whether Gertrude ever made the same sorts of promises to Hamlet’s father that the Player Queen makes to the Player King (who will soon be murdered)—but the irony of her response should be clear.By “protest,” Gertrude doesn’t mean “object” or “deny”—these meanings postdate Hamlet. The principal meaning of “protest” in Shakespeare’s day was “vow” or “declare solemnly,” a meaning preserved in our use of “protestation.” When we smugly declare that “the lady doth protest too much,” we almost always mean that the lady objects so much as to lose credibility. Gertrude says that Player Queen affirms so much as to lose credibility. Her vows are too elaborate, too artful, too insistent. More cynically, the queen may also imply that such vows are silly in the first place, and thus may indirectly defend her own remarriage.
O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s wordfor a thousand pound. Didst perceive? III.ii, 297-298 Hamlet: Again we see that at some point Hamlet has filled Horatio in on everything the Ghost told him. He has taken Horatio into his confidence, later allowing Horatio to “report [his] cause aright” (tell his story accurately) to those he leaves behind.Here Hamlet also expresses a resurgence of confidence in the Ghost, whom he’d previously begun to doubt.
O heart, lose not thy nature, let not ever/The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom./Let me be cruel, not unnatural./ I will speak daggers to her, but use none. III.ii, 411-413 Hamlet: Hamlet wrestles with himself here, addressing his own heart and then his soul as if he’s asking favors of his divided inner self. His language suggests that he is angry enough at Gertrude that he realizes he could act out violently against her, as he does against Polonius while speaking to her. (It’s possible that the explosion of rash aggression that drives him to kill the man he thinks is Claudius is actually displaced rage toward his mother.) Hamlet is disgusted and furious with Gertrude for re-marrying quickly, and perhaps even suspicious that her affair with Claudius started before his father’s death. But Hamlet has not lost his sense enough to harm his own mother.
My words fly up, my thought remainbelow./ Words without thoughts never to Heaven go.III.iii, 97-98 Claudius: In this pivotal scene the King has directed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to accompany Hamlet to England, thus effectively banishing this troublesome young man. Polonius enters and tells the King that he will conceal himself and spy on the conversation between Hamlet and his mother; and the King then kneels and prays not so much for forgiveness for his “rank” offence in killing his brother, but rather that he will get away with it. Hamlet enters, unseen by the King, and considers killing the King at prayer. He does not, however, fearing that the King will then go to heaven. The King rises from prayer, never having seen Hamlet, and utters the words above, revealing his own knowledge that his prayer is invalid, and consists of words but no true feelings of remorse.
Oh, shame! Where is thy blush? III.iv, 82 Hamlet: Hamlet’s furious shaming of his mother parallels his tirade at Ophelia in 3.1. Compare, too, his sexually loaded baiting of Ophelia in the “dumb show” scene Both his anger and his dark jokes suggest a view of female sexuality-or sexuality itself-as something shameful and shameless. Many readers and critics have surmised that his mother’s remarriage has left his sexual imagination diseased.
O Hamlet, speak no more./ Thou turn’stmine eyes into my very soul,/ And there I see such black and grained spots./ As will not leave their tinct. III.iv, 88-91 Gertrude: Hamlet has forced his mother to a painful self-awareness. On the association of the color black with sin, compare Claudius’s line in the previous scene:
I must be cruel only to be kind. III.iv. 178 Hamlet: In these lines addressed to his mother, Hamlet speaks of two different cruelties. In the first five lines, the prince refers to his own impulsive killing of the courtier Polonius earlier in the scene. Polonius had been snooping on Hamlet’s meeting with his mother; and when Hamlet noticed someone stirring behind an arras (wall-hanging), he ran him through—and so ended Polonius’s career. Hamlet rationalizes his deed—about 150 lines after the event—by getting the heavens involved: he’s “their scourge and minister,” he claims, chosen to visit justice on the corrupt. Polonius deserved what he got, but nonetheless Hamlet repents, and prepares to suffer the consequences: Polonius was punished by Hamlet, and Hamlet will be punished for killing Polonius.But when Hamlet says he “must be cruel only to be kind,” he’s shifting his attention back to his mother. He has spent the better part of the scene upbraiding her for indulging her new husband, King Claudius, whom Hamlet compares to a “mildewed ear” [see FLAMING YOUTH]. He must be cruel to his mother, he explains, only to be kind to her—to save her from lapsing any further into sensuality and betrayal of her dead husband. The sentiment—harsh medicine may effect the best cure—is ancient, but Hamlet apparently coins “cruel to be kind,” a very common phrase nowadays.
What is man/ If his chief good andmarket of this time/ Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more. IV.iv, 33-35 Hamlet: Hamlet’s reference to “a beast” is in the same sense as he used it previously, in Act 1, Scene 2.”Chief good and market” is not a reference to a man’s chief good to other men. Samuel Johnson (in 1765) glossed it as: “his highest good, and that for which he sells his time.” The question Hamlet asks is: what is a man if his primary value and pastime are sleeping and eating? If these goods define him, then he is nothing more than a beast.Hamlet as a whole engages deeply with several of the chief themes of Ecclesiastes, e.g.:There is a time for everything under the sun.Vanity, all is vanity (i.e., meaningless).The wise man and the fool must die the same death.
Oh, from this time forth,/ My thoughts bebloody or be nothing worth. IV.iv. 65-66 Hamlet: A bold statement, except if you remember that Hamlet says essentially the same thing in Act 1 Scene 5, after the Ghost leaves him with the injunction to “Remember me!”
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.V.i, 202-203 Hamlet: As two clowns dig Opelia’s grave [see CUDGEL THY BRAINS], they unearth the skull of Yorick, court jester to the former king. This king’s son, Prince Hamlet, just happens to be strolling through the graveyard with his friend Horatio, and he joins the first clown in a round of morbid jokes. Hamlet’s spirits, however, are dampened by the smelly skull, whose grim visage belies the prince’s vivid memories of the frolicsome rogue. In his characteristically associative fashion, Hamlet takes the sickening contrast between the Yorick he imagines and his disgusting remains as a leaping-point into sweeping philosophical conclusions about the common fate—decay—of both kings and court jesters.”Alas, poor Yorick” has always been one of the most fondly remembered lines from Hamlet (or misremembered lines—Hamlet does not say “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well”). As early as 1760, in his novel Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne introduced the parson Yorick, one of whose ancestors emigrated from Denmark to England to become the English king’s court jester. In fact, the narrator claims, “Hamlet’s Yorick, in our Shakespear, many of whose plays, you know, are founded upon authenticated facts,—was certainly the very man.”
Sweets to the sweet. V.i, 266 Gertrude: When Hamlet’s mother, the queen, delivers “Sweets to the sweet,” she’s not bearing a hostess gift or offering candy to her date. The queen’s “sweets” are funeral bouquets scattered in the grave of Ophelia, Hamlet’s former flame.The prince, who has just finished addressing the skull of Yorick [see ALAS, POOR YORICK], stumbles upon the funeral, ignorant that Ophelia has likely committed suicide. The murder of her father had driven Ophelia mad; Hamlet was the murderer, and the queen a witness. This is all bad enough. But the queen’s elegiac nostalgia for her son’s courtship of this deceased “sweet” is all the more disturbing in light of Hamlet’s somewhat over-arduous attachment to his mother.It’s therefore ironic that “sweets to the sweet” has become a corny quotation for those special romantic moments. How effective the line proves depends on how vividly one’s “sweet” is likely to recall the graveyard scene in Hamlet. You might, however, find these bons mots most winning when offered with a willow branch and a whiff of charm to a soon-to-be-insignificant other.
The cat will mew and dog will have hisday. V.i, 315 Hamlet: The action in this scene culminates in a fight between Hamlet and Laertes, who is the grieving brother of the dead Ophelia, upon whose gravesite the two men have been arguing fiercely.Up to this point in the play, Hamlet has killed Polonius (Ophelia and Laertes’ father), and sent poor Rosencrantz and Gildenstern to certain death at the hands of the King of England. And, in Laertes’ eyes anyway, Hamlet is also responsible for Ophelia’s death by suicide.For these reasons and more, Hamlet’s reputation at court is at a very low point indeed, and he knows it. Yet he sees himself as a man on a mission with a just cause: avenging his father’s murder. In this context, when Hamlet speaks this phrase in response to Laertes’ anger, he is sort of stating the obvious — albeit in a poetic way — according to his view of the situationIn other words, Hamlet sees himself as a righteous hero (Hercules), who, while he may be considered a lowly no-count creature by others (a dog), will surely (the cat will mew — what else would it do?) have his revenge (his day.)
I am justly killed with mine owntreachery. V.ii, 318 Laertes: There is a running motif in Hamlet of schemes blowing up in the schemer’s face, characters being caught in their own traps, and so on. theme of fate overthrowing our purposes
The drink, the drink! I am poisoned. V.ii, 321 Gertrude: After enduring the insults of her son earlier and having witnessed the play performed in adherence to the instructions of Hamlet, Gertrude is asked by Horatio to speak to the grieving Ophelia in Act IV, scene v. In an aside, Gertrude remarks, “To my sick soul, as sin’s true nature is,/Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss (17-20).These words see to presage her actions in Act V, scene ii. When Claudius, whom she must suspect of killing her husband, says “Gertrude, do not drink,” she responds, “I will, my lord; I pray you pardon me”(268) Gertrude here may be asking forgiveness for her forthcoming exposure of him as murderer. In motherly fashion, she wipes the face of Hamlet as he prepares to duel Laertes, lovingly touching her son for the last time. When Hamlet rushes to her after she falls having drunk the poisoned wine, she does not mention Claudius; instead, she says, “O my dear Hamlet! The drink, the drink! I am poisoned” (289). As she dies Gertrude expresses her love for her son and implicates Claudius, hoping that Hamlet will avenge her death as well as her husband’s. She must reason, too, that Hamlet will come out of his melancholia and feel again in charge of his fate. Clearly, there are indications that Gertrude has willingly poisoned herself in order to save her child from further tragedy.
The King, the King’s to blame. V.ii, 331 Laertes: Laertes tells Hamlet that the fight and the poisoning of Gertrude and Hamlet were the King’s idea. Laertes accidentally got poisoned and is clearing his conscience before he dies

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