Hamlet Quotations

Setting: associated with witchcraft and the wintery setting is a metaphorical link to the dark events of the drama Midnight…”the air bites shrewdly”
Allusion to the conflict in the plot and establishes the drama as being ‘epic’ in nature. It also sets up the oversea location Gun platform on the battlements of Elsinore Castle
Marcellus alluding to how the the physical state of Denmark is degrading but also that the Court is corrupt. It touches on contemporary Elizabethan religious beliefs where ghosts were seen as a bad omen, as such, it is proleptical of the tragic nature of the play.Horatio also sheds some light on contextual values. The site of the Ghost sparks a sense of fear and discomfort. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark””This bodes some eruption to our state”
Hamlet’s cynical views on the state of Denmark. Reinforced by “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” “’tis an unweeded garden…things rank and gross in nature possess it merely”
The Ghost reveals to Hamlet, using hyperbole, how much he is suffering in the afterlife. This is used to create sympathy and spark Hamlet into action. “I am forbid to tell the secrets of my prison house. I could tell a tale whose lightest words would harrow up thy soul and freeze thy young blood”
Hamlet establishes the theme of corruption in politics and society. He expresses how society oppresses people and imposes rules and is constraining. His cynical views are also presented. “Denmark’s a prison…one of th’worst”
Denmark’s corrupt court is accentuated through images of disease and illness. The connotations associated with disease include things like dirty and unhealthy morals. “Ulcerous place”
Religion is established as a theme. The audience would have been heavily religious, and so this would engage them as through confession, the audience gain insight into the King’s guilt. It is also the place where Hamlet chooses not to kill Claudius because he waits for a better and more sinful moment. This delays the plot further. King’s private chapel
Claustrophobia is created which manifests itself in the tension between Hamlet and Gertrude. The small and confined space speed the action up and makes everything a lot more taught and awkward. Gertrude’s private room
This prop reinforces the theme of duplicity and secrecy of the court and spying. It is also significant in the fact that it is the cause of Polonius’ death (“springes to catch woodcocks”) Arras
This prop is used to develop Hamlet’s character. He reaches the conclusion that death acts as a leveler and that death is the end of everything and inevitable. This sparks Hamlet into accepting his death. Yorrick’s skull – “to what base uses we may return”
This prop is used to exemplify Claudius’ characteristics. On one hand it shows his villainy but on the other, his cowardliness as he desperately wants Hamlet dead, perhaps out of fear. It is also dramatic irony as the audience know that the cup is poisoned. The supporting quote shows that Gertrude’s death is inevitable and that Claudius is ruthless in killing (Machiavellian). “Give him the cup…Gertrude, do not drink!”(“[Aside] It is the poisoned cup. It is too late.”)
Here, the readers are presented with Hamlet’s grief and depression regarding his father’s death. It also reinforces the theme of appearance in that he expresses how his clothes cannot truly represent his feelings and that it stems far deeper. “’tis not my inkly cloak nor my suits of solemn black that can denote me truly”
Ophelia reports offstage action (nuntius) which introduces Hamlet’s ‘antic disposition’ and shows that his plan is underway. It also reinforces the theme of madness. This is a convention of a Revenge tragedy. It engages the audience further because we are unsure if the madness is feigned or real. “his doublets all unbraced, not hat upon his head, his stockings fouled”
Gertrude (nuntius) reports the death of Ophelia. The significance in this is that it spurs Laertes to seek revenge against Hamlet. It also establishes the play as a tragedy seeing as already there has been the death of two major characters. Finally, it is also memetic in that it demonstrates the position of women in society. The clothes are used to represent women, and how her position took her down. “Her garments, heavy with their drink, pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay to muddy death”
Mockery of Osric from Hamlet. Osric is representative of the Danish court and shows the superficiality within it (he is only at the “king’s mess” because he has a “large possession of dirt”). Again, this is memetic in that Shakespeare expresses the flaws in society. “Put your bonnet to right use…[Hamlet moves him to put on his hat]”
Hamlet’s first words where he expresses his disgust towards Claudius. He says how Claudius is more than an uncle but his father (by law) but does not acknowledge him as family. This is an example of paronomasia as it shows Hamlet’s wit and ingenuity and the play on words could also present “kind” as emotionally “kind”. Hamlet also avoids stratification as a despondent youth, in an attempt to disassociate himself from the “rotten state of Denmark” “[Aside] A little more than kin, but less than kind”
Hamlet’s misogyny is revealed as he expresses his disgust towards Gertrude’s hasty remarriage. He generalises women as being weaker than men. “frailty thy name is woman”…”o most pernicious woman”
Hamlet shows his depression and extent of self-criticism “I do not set my life at a pin’s fee”
Hamlet sheds light on how pathetic he is and how unmotivated he is in his cause. He compares himself to actors (his inability to act on something important vs actors’ ability to act on nothing) “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I…unpregnant of my cause”
Hamlet compares himself unfavourably to Fortinbras as, like with the actors, Fortinbras in driven in an unjust and dishonourable cause, whereas Hamlet lacks ambition. The use of hyperbole is used to distance Fortibras further and portray him in a positive light. “tender prince whose spirit with divine ambition puffed…even for an egg shell” vs “How stand I then?”
Polonius makes the readers question Hamlet’s ‘antic disposition’ and whether it is feigned or real. “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”
Hamlet demonstrates his wit and ingenuity through hypophora (asking questions he already knows the answer to) “Were you not sent for?…I know the king and queen have sent for you”
Hamlet says in his soliloquy how he fears death because of what is to come afterwards. It also has a significance to the wider context of the play seeing as he identifies his fatal flaw – his inability to act quickly because he thinks too much. “thus conscience makes cowards of us all”
Ironic in what Hamlet says because as he talks down on Ophelia by commenting on her impurity, he says how she uses make up to attract men, and doesn’t treat herself with respect. Hence “get thee to a nunnery” “God hath given you one face and you make yourself another”
Ophelia shows sympathy towards Hamlet and comments on how a once noble man has now degraded. She comments on how his potential has gone to waste. “Oh what a noble mind is here o’erthrown…th’expectancy and rose of this fair state”
Hamlet/Shakespeare reflects on the nature and power of theatre and how it can be used to depict society. The use of metatheatre and memesis forces the readers to situate the play in relation to the wider world. This is further supported because Hamlet uses the play to expose Claudius (“catch the conscience of the king”) “to hold a mirror up to nature; to show virtue in her own feature, scorn her own image”
These words are designed to “speak daggers” and inflict a sense of fear and realisation in Gertrude. However, she misinterpreted them which exposes Polonius. “You go not till I set you up a glass where you may see the inmost part of you”
Hamlet compares old King Hamlet favourably towards Claudius. He refers to classical illusions to describe the father which makes him out to be god-like. “Hyperion…eyes like Mars…Mercury” vs “mildewed ear”
Hamlet discovers that Ophelia died and the melodrama creates an over the top and dramatic scene between Hamlet and Laertes. The hyperbole is used again to add to the drama “What, the fair Ophelia…forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantities of love make up my sum”
Here, Hamlet seems to embrace the idea of death. The theme of religion is developed as Hamlet puts his faith in God. There seems to be a sense of certainty in his concise answer to his question in Act 3 Scene 1 “There is a special providence in the fall of the sparrow…Let be.”
Hamlet, the tragic hero, redeems himself. His gestures are sincere and appears to provide a sense of closure. With this, the idea of death becomes inevitable. “[Takes Laertes by the hand] Give me your pardon sir, I’ve done you wrong”
Fortinbras (minor character) helps to redeem Hamlet’s character. He states that Hamlet died with dignity and leaves his reputation unblemished. “Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage for he was likely to have proved most loyal”
Ophelia stage direction is an understatement. She also uses songs to sing about the death of a loved one. There is a certain amount of irony in that the lyrics do not match the classical use of song (celebratory) “[Enter Ophelia distracted]””He is dead and gone…At his heels a stone”
Ophelia talks about her loss of innocence and her loss of virginity when singing about Hamlet. “Let in a maid that out a maid never departed more”
Ophelia hands out imaginary flowers to the royal court. Each of the flowers symbolise something. As the audience, we are not sure who she deals them out to, however, through their symbolic significance, we can infer. RosemaryPansiesFennelColumbinesRueDaisyViolets
RosemaryPansiesFennelColumbineRueDaisyViolets Remembrance (Polonius’ death)Thought (Polonius’ death)Adultery (Claudius)Faithlessness (Claudius)Adultery (Gertrude and herself)Innocence (no one)Faithfulness (died when Polonius died)
Claudius is given predatory like qualities. This biblical reference alludes to the devil and exhibits his evilness. The Ghost also makes use of diatribe in order to sharpen its critical faculty and spark a sense of disgust in Hamlet, prompting action.Hamlet’s disgust can be exhibited through his repetition in his response to the revelation. It further explores Claudius’ Machiavellian qualities. “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown…That incestuous, adulterate beast””O villain, villain, smiling damned villain”
Here, Claudius’ response to The Murder of Gonzago confirms the words of the Ghost and now the need to take action is more important than ever. Now, Hamlet has no way out and can continue his revenge plot. His response demonstrates how Hamlet successfully “caught the conscience of the king” “The king rises””Give me some light, Away!”
Polonius’ statement about covering up reinforces the central theme of pretending and acting. It also seems appropriate and suitable towards Claudius, and this shows seeing as his response sparks a sense of guilt. “We are oft to blame in this…with devotions visage, we do sugar o’er the devil himself” “[Aside] Oh, ’tis too true. How smart the lash that speech doth give my conscience”
Claudius clearly shows a sense of guilt and wishes to receive forgiveness (reinforcing religion as a theme). However, his internal dilemma comes in the form that he is torn between wanting forgiveness but keeping what he has. As such, his Machiavellian qualities emerge. “My offense is rank it smells to heaven””Oh what form of prayer can serve my turn? ‘Forgive my foul murder’? This cannot be, since I am still possessed of these effects for which I did the murder.”
Here, Claudius is referring to the divine right of kings – a concept that Jacobean audiences would have been very familiar with. There is verbal irony present in that he states how there is a divinity that surrounds a king, however, his crime was blasphemous. “There’s such divinity doth hedge a king”
Laertes makes the final revelation and justly exposes Claudius and his role in the deaths in the exposition. Here, Laertes seems to redeem himself and acts almost as a confession. “The king, the king is to blame…He is justly served”
Gertrude finally provides a personal voice. Through her only aside, it becomes evident that she feels guilty about a number of things: adultery, witnessing Polonius’ death, being the cause of Hamlet’s ‘antic disposition’. “[Aside]…So full of artless jealousy is guilt, it spills itself in fearing to be spilt”
Polonius establishes the theme of pretence by saying how, ironically, by lying you can reveal the truth. This is a value that Polonius seems to act upon as, through concealment, he attempts to expose the truth. “Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth”
This stage direction is the reason for Polonius’ downfall. The theme of spying and deceit and pretence is exhibited again. It is ironic as well. [Polonius hides himself behind the arras]
Hyperbole – Laertes makes this scene melodramatic and almost ridiculous “Oh treble woe fall ten times treble on that cursed head [Leaps into grave]”
Situational irony in what Laertes said (he was killed by his own sword) and there is a revelation. It also echoes what Polonius said (“springes to catch woodcocks”). “It is here, Hamlet, thou art slain…the treacherous instrument is in thy hand envenomed” “A woodcock to my own springe…I am justly killed with my own treachery.”
Laertes redeems himself and almost seems to confess to his sins. As such, by ending like this, he can cleanse his soul and go to heaven. “Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet”
Horatio is a favourable character and, a lot of the time, tries to steer Hamlet away from danger. His loyalty towards Hamlet shows in the exposition when the Ghost arrives and in the denouement when Hamlet embraces the idea of death. “Do not my lord””You will lose my lord””If your mind dislike anything, obey it”
Horatio demonstrates his compelling devotion and loyalty towards Hamlet, to the point where he is prepared to follow Hamlet to death. “Here’s some liqour left”
Horatio expresses his love and grief towards Hamlet’s death. “Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
Horatio juxtaposes the corruption in the court by being pure and loyal, exposing the truth. “So you shall hear of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts…all this I can truly deliver”

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