Hamlet Quotes for OCR A Level with analysis

‘… valiant Hamlet’ Horatio talking about King Hamlet. Tell’s us that King Hamlet was brave – leaving a great deal for his son to live up to. Also tells us he was well respected by his people. We can see the connection to feudal and chivalric values by the epithet.
‘… the sheeted dead/ did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets;’ Sets up the idea that disasters lie ahead following the sight of the ghost. It parallels Macbeth – world going wild after regicide – in this describes the dead coming back to life. Horatio recalls the omens that preceeded Caesar’s death.
‘… the morn, in russet mantle clad’ Horatio as the sun rises. This is beautiful personification/ imagery of the sunrise – shows his education.
‘…our dear brother’s death/ The memory be green…’ This is an address from Claudius to the court. It has the irony of ‘dear’ – as he was his brother’s killer. It also acknowledges that the death was recent. He uses the royal we. this reminds the court of Claudius’ royal authority as king. The blank verse of the speech is so polished and carefully rehearse that it echoes the ‘gliband oily art’ that characterizes the insincere gushing of Goneril and Regan in the opening scene of King Lear. We can see from the reference to ‘green’ that Claudius is trying to suggest that moving on is natural due to the link to nature.
‘A little more than kin, and less than kind’ This is Hamlet’s aside about Claudius. It is also his first line – most of Hamlet’s inner thoughts are shown through soliloquy. Tells audience that H is witty, clever and not a fan of C. Hamlet speaks in riddles so that he can be rude to Claudius. We see Hamlet’s isolation from the aside because no one else is hostile to Claudius. Hamlet is using puns to show that he’s unhappy with C being so closely related now he’s wed G.
‘… my inky cloak’ Hamlet about his sadness. A metaphor to show how miserable Hamlet is as he grieves for his father. Hamlet is once again cast as a solitary figure as he is the only character in mourning clothes. This is in visual contrast with the colorful costumes of the rest of the cast. Furthermore, suggests something is wrong in Denmark because mourning clothes should be worn for a year after the death of a king at the time.
‘…’tis unmanly grief/…/ A heart unfortified, a mind impatient’ this is Claudius to Hamlet. Claudius suggests that Hamlet’s grieving is excessive. Shows Claudius’ evil nature as it is he who has caused Hamlet’s grief. This is a direct criticism of Hamlet because Claudius is giving a clear indication of what masculinity should be. (Hamlet too weak, grieving too much). By referring to heart and mind Claudius links them suggesting that Hamlet is too emotional.
‘O, that this too too solid flesh would melt’ This is Hamlet’s first soliloquy. In it Hamlet considers suicide however he will not as its against God’s law. The blank verse shows status and the soliloquy reveals honest emotions. He seems much more angered by marriage than death.
‘… ’tis an unweeded garden/ that grows to seed, things rank and gross in/ nature’ Hamlet about the effect of corruption on Denmark. Hamlet is using the metaphor of an Eden neglected and unloved so only weeds flourish. Hamlet is fed up with the world because it allows unnatural things to flourish. Hamlet seems overwhelmed by the sinfulness of the world around him.
‘How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable’ Hamlet speaks in a flat listless tempo. He is still grieving but these are also like the sentiments of someone in a state of depression. Therefore, the listing is suggesting he has a form of depression.
‘Hyperion to a Satyr’ In Hamlet’s first soliloquy. This portrays the king as virtually perfect. Hyperion is identified by Shakespeare with the sun god, Apollo, the personification of divine beauty. Claudius is compared to a satyr which have a reputation from lechery. This links with Claudius because of the sexual relationship he has with Gertrude. Therefore, we can see Hamlet’s depiction of the marriage.
‘… frailty, thy name is/ woman’ In Hamlet’s first soliloquy. The pause preceding this phrase mimics Hamlet’s turmoil. The quote condemns all women for being weak. ‘Frailty’ is the personification of an abstract noun. This has the effect of it being held equal to women. We can see that Gertrude has made him lose faith in women because Gertrude is blamed through his anger. – This could be the first evidence of Hamlet’s misogynous tendencies. Hamlet’s language becomes less controlled and deliberate – enjambment suggests angry free flow of thoughts that he can’t contain.
‘O most wicked speed, to post/ With such dexterity to incestuous sheets.’ In Hamlet’s first soliloquy. This shows Hamlet’s fury at how quickly his mother re-married – he sees the marriage as immoral, like incest. The hissing sibilants show Hamlet’s revulsion. The sheets are ‘incestuous’ because marriage to a brother’s wife was explicitly banned in the Book of Common Prayer (Elizabeth on the throne). The ‘sheets’ is a very detailed description. Shows that Hamlet is grossed out because his mother is forcing to him to see her as a newlywed.
‘But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue’ In Hamlet’s first soliloquy. We see Hamlet’s genuine grief in this phrase and feel sympathy for him – he wants to try and contain his disapproval. there is also a tone of futility because he is going to stay silent as what good would speaking up/criticizing do – this is ironic for the audience because they know about the ghost who wants Hamlet to speak up.
‘Foul deed will rise,/ Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to/ men’s eyes.’ This is Hamlet on his own. The scene ends with Hamlet alone and with a rhyming couplet. The rhyming couplet increases the sense of finality and summarizes the emotional impact of the scene. The final message is that evil will always be found out. It implies that the ghost with reveal something terrible. hamlet believes that his father’s ghost is a sign that his death was suspicious.
‘… chaste treasure’ This is Laertes to Ophelia. Laertes has a complicated relationship with his sister. His use of sexual imagery, fixation on her ‘chaste treasure’ and the affectionate language between them creates an incestuous undertone similar to Hamlet and Gertrude. Laertes worries about Ophelia’s honor because if she ruins it it will bring shame on the family. We can see the value of Ophelia’s virginity as the metaphor uses the vehicle ‘treasure’ to show the worth of Ophelia’s marriage and therefore, virginity to the family’.
‘… hiself the primrose path of dalliance treads,/ and recks not his own rede’. Ophelia to Laertes. Ophelia makes the point that Laertes should follow his own advice. This moment is quite sassy as Ophelia shows some spirit. This disrupts the passive attitude typical of Ophelia’s sanity. However, her argument is not as confident as other Shakespearean heroines such as Emilia in Othello. Shakespeare could be using Ophelia to critique the double standards of women during the Elizabethan era as through this quote he encourages the comparison of the siblings.
‘… to thine own self be true’ Polonius to Laertes. Polonius’ advice is fairly typical of father/son – there genuinely seems to be some love behind the thinly veiled orders. This contrasts Hamlet’s distant relationship with his uncle. Also notice that Polonius gives Laertes strong advice but Ophelia orders.
‘He hath my lord of late made many tenders/ of his affection to me’ Ophelia to Polonius. Polonius picks up on Ophelia’s use of the word ‘tenders’ and plays on it by suggesting that her affections are not real. This is also a pun as tenders can be a form of currency. Therefore, we see Polonius’ language of commerce – Ophelia’s value is measured in what her virginity and honour can provide.
‘I shall obey, my lord’. Ophelia to Polonius. There is a contrast with Hamlet and Claudius – Hamlet rejects Claudius’ advice but Polonius’ kids seem to accept it. Ophelia, however, feminist critics say has no choice but to obey her father. On the other hand the short clipped tone makes us wonder if she is agreeing or simply has accepted the futility of arguing with Polonius considering her position in society.
‘Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts/ from hell’, Hamlet says about the ghost. Here Hamlet recognises the potential ambiguity of the ghost because imagery of religion, hell, death and heaven are all intermingled. Hamlet questions the ghost’s uncertain origins and motives
‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’ Marcellus. The guards see the ghost as a sign of chaos. ‘Rotten’ has links to death, decay and destruction. This develops the idea of Denmark being in a poor state. This ominous warning after Hamlet follows the Ghost creates a sense of corruption.
‘Revenge his foul and most natural murder’ The ghost to Hamlet. This request spurs the central plot as the ghost’s demand for revenge confuse the revenge plot. His ambiguity provides Hamlet with the many doubts that delay his revenge. The ghost’s demand for vengeance is sinful in Christian terms.
‘… that incestuous, that adulterate beast’ Ghost about Claudius. This is language that Hamlet will later echo. The use of ‘adulterate’ suggests that Gertrude got together with Claudius prior to Old Hamlet’s death. This quote shows us Claudius evil nature.
‘… Remember me’. The ghost to Hamlet. Here the ghost addresses the universal issue of the fear of being forgotten after death. The Ghost’s final request is to be remembered as he fears being forgotten by Hamlet like Gertrude has already done. Shakespeare challenges the reliability of memory – Hamlet has idealized his father, father begs to be remembered…. The begging contrasts with Claudius’ statement that grief is unmanly because the ghost is asking to be mourned.
‘The time is out of joint. O cursed spite,/ That ever I was born to set it right’ Hamlet’s summative rhyming couplet. It contrasts the first speech because Hamlet quickly feels like he does not want to do this. Hamlet’s immediate reaction to his mission is to realize the enormity of the task – time itself has been disrupted by his father’s murder. It is much larger than simple vengeance has he has to save the whole state from corruption. He wonders if he is equal to the task. Hamlet also feels like it is his duty not to leave Gertrude to heaven but to persuade her to acknowledge her sins and repent.
‘As if he had been loosed out of hell/ To speak of horrors’ Ophelia to Polonius. Ophelia is fearful of Hamlet’s strange behavior. This is the first sign that Hamlet has started to feign an ‘antic disposition’. This quote suggests that Hamlet goes to Ophelia straight after his encounter with the ghost. Ophelia’s apparent rejection of Hamlet could confirm her obedience, but the closet scene is offstage so not sure if her chastity is still intact. Also because it is off stage we don’t know if Hamlet really is real or faking it.
‘…with his doublet all unbraced’ Ophelia to Polonius. This is evidence from Hamlet’s ‘antic disposition’ as Hamlet has pretended to be mad like a distracted lover. Playwrights commonly use disheveled clothes as a visual sign that a character has gone mad.
‘This is the very ecstasy of love’ Polonius to Ophelia. Polonius mistakenly takes Hamlet’s odd behavior as due to an infatuation with Ophelia. The juxtaposition reminds us of both sides of love.
‘My too much changed son’ Gertrude to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Here Gertrude recognizes how Hamlet is behaving whilst showing some maternal concern.
‘Hamlet’s lunacy’ Polonius to Claudius. This shows how all are noticing Hamlet’s peculiar conduct. The blunt ‘lunacy’ – Polonius makes clear the subject of H’s mental state has been the discussion of the court. The language in which Polonius, Claudius and Gertrude describe Hamlet’s behavior suggests that even before the explosive nunnery scene, Hamlet’s behavior is interpreted as something more than clever jesting or depression. These terms may also function as stage directions telling the actor how ‘wildly’ he should present Hamlet.
‘I doubt it is no other but the main,/ His father’s death, and our o’er hasty marriage’ Gertrude to Claudius. Gertrude is quite astute and honest here; we see that she knows her son and is aware of the impact of events on him. There are very few intimate exchanges between King and Queen in the play. The rare insight suggests tensions that are not usually shown – less comfortable than polished manners to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern suggest. Gertrude admits that there marriage was quick and that it has disturbed her son. She uses ‘o’er’ perhaps suggesting that she regrets the speed of it/effect on Hamlet.
‘… brevity is the soul of wit’ Polonius to Claudius. This is ironic because Polonius always takes ages to say what need to be said. Shakespeare is developing Polonius as a character with comic potential due to his vain and verbose character.
‘Doubt that the sun doth move;/…/ But never doubt I love’ Hamlet in letter to Ophelia. Hamlet is playing with words but is it evidence that Hamlet did truly lover her. Hamlet uses imagery of the sun and stars to indicate the bright joyful and permanent nature of his love and also the depth and eternal nature of his love. It is a very hyperbolic love letter.
‘… I’ll loose my daughter to him.’ Polonius to Claudius. Suggests that Polonius looks on Ophelia as being in his keeping more like a dog than a daughter. However there is the added connotation of ‘loosing’ an animal for breeding purposes. By taking about ‘loosing’ Ophelia, Polonius paradoxically concedes that most of the time he keeps her locked up. This develops the idea of Polonius as a pimp.
‘Though this be madness, yet there is/ method in’t’ Polonius to Hamlet in an aside. Polonius rightly guesses that Hamlet’s seeming madness is carefully crafted for purpose. There is a suspicion that Hamlet is not truly mad. The alliterative phrase makes this memorable because we are seeking logic in the illogical.
‘I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.’ Hamlet to Guildernstern and Rosencrantz. Hamlet, like Claudius, is using Guildenstern and Rosencrantz in a game of bluff. This quote suggests that Hamlet is not mad at all times, although the alliterative phrasing makes it seem as if he is mad. Hamlet speaks about the supposed impact of the weather on madness. He knows that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern will be reporting back so anything confusing for them is good for him. Hamlet does not show his friends his direct confidence. He is suspicious.
‘… almost as bad, good mother,/ As kill a king, and marry his brother’ Hamlet to Gertrude. This jeering couplet uses rhyme to draw attention to the accusation. The blunt nature of the language suggest Hamlet is not hedging his words or hiding under manipulative language. In this moment Hamlet quickly moves on from killing Polonius. It emphasizes how obsessed he is with Gertrude’s sin.
‘Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;/ And now I’ll do’t – and so he goes to heaven;’ Hamlet Soliloquy. This is Hamlet’s explanation for not killing Claudius. The tripping monosyllables of the first line make the task of killing Claudius initially seem really easy. Many critics argue that Hamlet’s refusal to kill Claudius is never fully explained. Possible reasons for delay – Plot device (build suspense by subverting expectations), Tragic Flaw, Conscience, Fairness
‘My crown, mine own ambition and my Queen./ May one be pardoned and retain th’ offence?’ Claudius Soliloquy. This is when Claudius confirms his own tragic weakness. His confession is comprehensive and unflinching. However his repetition of my/mine suggests he is not about to give them up. Claudius cannot repent because he is selfish and unwilling to give up what he has gained from the murder. It is interesting to consider the order of the triad – crown and country first and Gertrude last. Which is he emphasizing?
‘His greatness weighed, his will is not his own,/ For he himself is subject to his birth.’ Laertes to Ophelia. Laertes is warning Ophelia but this is also a commmentary of political reality. Monarchs are required to provide an heir. The idea of predestined reality is paralleled with Ophelia who is subject to her father/Laertes governing her reality.
‘Tender yourself more/dearly;’ Polonius to Ophelia. This is typical of Polonius because he picks up on Ophelia’s use of ‘tenders’ and plays on it. He suggests that Hamlet’s affections are not real but also uses the pun of ‘tender’ as in currency.
‘the play’s the thing/ Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.’ Hamlet Soliloquy. This rhyming couplet sends the audience to the next act with a forward motion because Hamlet appears to have regained his momentum. He has made a decision in the summation couplet.
‘Get thee to a nunnery, why wouldst thou be a/ breeder of sinners?’ Hamlet to Ophelia. Hamlet is talking as if women are livestock and, echoing the bible, he is blaming women for sin. He wants Ophelia to go to a nunnery = a place where Ophelia can remain chaste and not continue the procreation of sinful creatures. However, critics J.Q.Adams and Dover Wilson suggest nunnery could be slang for brothel. The most common interpretation is that Hamlet wants to save Ophelia from becoming a ‘breeder of sinners’
‘Is she to be buried in christian burial/ when she willfully seeks her own salvation’ 1st Clown to 2nd Clown. The character’s of lower classes are there for comic relief. It is suggested that Ophelia is being saved and getting to heaven before her time. This could be for comic effect and the clown has confused salvation and damnation. The Gravediggers are discussing how Ophelia gets a christian burial. The conversation about Ophelia’s suspicious death reinforces the ambiguous nature of the play. It draws on ideas of death being the great leveler.
‘I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s/ wife’ Queen to grave. This is a tragic moment because it shows that Polonius’ separation of the lovers was unnecessary. How would this have changed things?
‘Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet/ prince, / And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’ Horatio’s epitaph for Hamlet. This usually expresses the feelings of the audience. The description is quite romantic and gives a sense of righteousness. Horatio emphasizes Hamlet’s nobility of spirit and rank. In this scene with Fortinbras Horatio is allowed to have the function of the chorus.
‘I will my lord, I pray you pardon me.’ Gertrude to Claudius. Gertrude drinks the poisoned cup. There are multiple interpretations – she realizes that the poison is in the chalice? – The interpretation changes depending on how you see her relationship with Hamlet – Drinking with honor to Hamlet shows her support, she could be sacrificing herself.
‘To let this canker of our nature come/ in further evil?’ Hamlet to Horatio. This is still a question he is seeking reassurance. However he is using the disease imagery to gain reassurance over whether he should kill Claudius from Horatio.
‘to be or not to be’ Act 3 Scene 1. Hamlet’s famous soliloquy: to live and suffer or to die and go to unknown suffering. Mentally testing the continuation of his life against its absence.
‘The main cause of the whole tragic train of events is Hamlet’s compulsion to postpone’ Kieran Ryan 2016
‘The death of his father provokes a bloodlust in Laertes, though whether this is more due to the young man’s character or the pressures of society that Shakespeare is reflecting in debatable’ Emag 2010
‘every time he enters he is still more terrifying’ Addison 1711 – about the ghost
‘Hamlet depicts a bond between Gertrude and her son which can often be rather uncomfortable to watch in performance given the undertones of their incestuous desire.’ Lydia Onyett
‘the chameleon’s dish’ Act 3 Scene 2
‘kind of wild justice’ Francis Bacon on revenge
‘it gives him the license to speak cruel truths’ Kate Flint 1988 on madness
‘Hamlet’s disorder not only transgresses aristocracy behaviour but can be spoken as threatening to the wellbeing of the state as well as the individual.’ Kate Flint 1988
‘From the moment we hear about the ghost in the first scene, Shakespeare is raising questions about the nature of christianity’ Graham Bradshaw
‘Hamlet’s father describes… how the poison invades the body… this becomes the leitmotif of the imagery… the corruption of land and people’ Wolfgang Clemen 1951
explores Ophelia’s madness in relation to the dysfunctional relationship between Ophelia and Polonius. Argues that madness is caused by an inability to control one’s life. believes Ophelia’s madness is caused by her inability to balance her own desires with those of her father. Elaine Showalter
‘the effect of this overbalance of the imaginative power is beautifully illustrated in the everlasting broodings of Hamlet’s mind’ Coleridge -romantic response to Hamlet as a character
‘Claudius is not a criminal. He is.. a good and gentle king enmeshed by the chain of causality linking him with his crime’ Wilson Knight
‘Claudius shows every sign of being an excellent diplomatist and king’ Wilson Knight
‘Though Gertrude is still nominally the wife of Claudius, she is no longer, psychically or sexually, in union with him’ John Russel
‘Gertrude seems too colourless a woman to be connected with anything as positive as murder’ Victor Kiernon
‘There is no sense in which Ophelia may be said to grow up in the course of the play’ Maurice Charney
‘Through madness, the women on stage can suddenly make a forceful assertion of their being’ Maurice Charney
“Hamlet’s world is in the interrogative mood” Maynard Mack
‘a tragedy of thought, connected with his intellectual nature’ A. C. Bradley
“Whereas Hamlet thinks too much, Ophelia feels too much” Elaine Showalter on Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship
“A strong and intelligent woman betrayed by the heartlessness of men” Helena Faucit on Ophelia
‘A king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar’ Hamlet Act 4 Scene 3. Hamlet is trying to humble the king. He is trying to explain how a king is no different than a beggar. Hamlet goes through the cycle of life: a king dies-worms eat him-a beggar fishes with a worm that has eaten from the king- the beggar eats the fish and hence the king goes through the guts of a beggar. Be able to explain literally how a King can go “a progress” (another political idea- Kings and Queens would go from one castle to another in a long, spectacular parade) through the guts of a beggar.
‘the essential emotion of the play is the feeling of a son towards a guilty mother’ T.S.Eliot
‘He is the ambassador of death walking amid life’ Wilson Knight. – Hamlet in the opening of the play is the only one conscious of the death. The others all seem in relatively good spirits.
‘… there are many voices in Ophelia’s madness speaking through her… none of them her own’ David Leverenz
‘(Ophelia’s) history is an instance of how someone can be driven mad by having her inner feelings misrepresented’ David Leverenz
‘(Ophelia) has no choice but to say ‘I shall obey, my lord” David Leverenz
‘She is valued only for the roles that further other people’s plots’ David Leverenz on Ophelia
‘Ophelia literally has no story without Hamlet’ Lee Edwards
‘feminist discourse… has offered a new perspective on Ophelia’s madness as protest and rebellion’ Elaine Showalter
‘Gertrude… has traditionally been played as a sensual, deceitful woman’ Rebecca Smith
‘Gertrude’s brief speeches… neither structure nor content suggest wantonness’ Rebecca Smith
‘Pleasing men is Gertrude’s main interest’ Rebecca Smith on Gertrude’s interests
‘Gertrude has not moved toward independence or a heightened moral stance’ Rebecca Smith

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