Hamlet: Quotes from Act 1 Scene 2

Claudius: ‘Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature,/ That we with wisest sorrow think on him/ Together with remembrance of ourselves.’ King Claudius opens Act 1 scene 2 with a speech about how the kingdom should be remembering themselves, i.e, they should seek to overcome their grief at the old King Hamlet’s death, and instead think to the future.
Claudius: ‘With one auspicious and one dropping eye,/ With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,/ in equal scale weighing delight and dole.’ The different eyes described here describe how the kingdom is in a state of mourning as well as renewal. On the one hand, Claudius is asking the kingdom to look to future successes; he is negating their sadness by telling them there is an alternative – delight and dole are equally weighted.
Claudius: ‘Now follows that you know young Fortinbras,/ Holding a weak supposal of our worth,/ Or thinking by our late dear brother’s death/ Our state to be disjoint and out of frame.’ Claudius draws the kingdom’s attention to the imminent threat of invasion on part of Fortinbras, who believes the death of King Hamlet to have left Denmark ‘disjoint and out of frame.’ This is the ‘dream of his advantage.’ – i.e, we are warned that Claudius expects him to take advantage of Denmark in its period of weakness.
Hamlet: ‘A little more than kin and less than kind.’ Hamlet is spiteful of Claudius since he married so quickly to Gertrude after the death of his father. He emphasises this here, telling Claudius of his position – ‘less than kind.’
Gertrude: ‘Good Hamlet, cast thy nightly colour off,/ And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.’ Gertrude has gotten over the death of her late husband fast. To a modern audience, her confidence in the advice of Claudius is suspicious- here, she seems more aligned with the needs of Claudius than she does with her son, who she is less than empathetic with.
Gertrude: ‘Thou know’st ’tis common, all that lives must die/ Passing through nature to eternity.’ Gertrude is very matter-of-fact about death- she seems to see it as coldly scientific, and is assured in the idea of an afterlife. Unlike Hamlet, she is not suffering from any melancholy.
Claudius: ‘But to persevere/ In obstinate condolement is a course/ Of impious stubbornness: ’tis unmanly grief:/It shows a will most incorrect to heaven.’ Claudius asserts that Hamlet’s grief is feminine- it is overemphasised and persists despite the fact that death is a fact of life. He is ‘ An understanding simple and unschooled.’ Claudius argues that it is also unreligious, since Hamlet should accept that people die and go to heaven with grace, rather than mourning it.
Hamlet: ‘O that this too too solid flesh would melt,/ Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!’ This marks the start of Hamlet’s first soliloquy, where he Laments his own existence and considers the possibility of suicide due to his seemingly unresolvable melancholy.
Hamlet: ‘Or that the Everlasting had not fixed/ His canon gainst self-slaughter! O God, O God!’ Hamlet considers the existence of God, the battle therefore being between his desire to die and his devotion to God.
Hamlet: ‘Tis an unweeded garden/ That grows to seed: things rank and gross in nature/ Possess it merely.’ The first example of ‘weed’ imagery, which is suggestive of a corruption to the state in that the good has been overgrown, and now weeds flourish. This references not only Hamlet’s own life but also the political state of Denmark.
Hamlet: ‘Why, she would hang on him/ As if increase of appetite had grown/ By what it fed on/’ This idea of Hamlet’s is indicative of his fear that his mother’s relationship with Claudius started before his father’s death; he is greatly sceptical of how fast the relationship formed.
Hamlet: ‘and yet within a month-/ Let me not think on’t: frailty, thy name is woman!’ Hamlet uses his anger at his mother to denounce all women by calling them frail creatures. He sees his mother’s fast marriage to Claudius as a sign of weakness- perhaps specifically, weakness in her susceptibility to Claudius/
‘She married. O, most wicked speed, to post/ With such dexterity to incestuous sheets.’ Hamlet sees his mother’s decision as being ‘incestuous’- Claudius was her brother in law, and now he is her Husband. He is unable to grapple with the facts and still maintain a respectable image of his mother. ‘Wicked speed’ suggests that there was an element of corruption to her decision to marry again so soon.
Hamlet: ‘The funeral baked meats/ Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.’ Hamlet uses the idea of the celebratory food to juxtapose how the wedding and the funeral were connected, despite them celebrating very different things. He uses it also to draw a connection with how close together the two events were.
Horatio: ‘Season your admiration for a while/ With an attent ear till I may deliver/ Upon the witness of these gentlemen/ This marvel to you.’ Horatio reveals to Hamlet that he has witnessed a ghost of his father, and seeks out his friend’s trust.
Horatio: ‘A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.’ Links to the idea of a ghost needing to settle something before they are able to move on. This spirit has been wronged somehow- betrayed.
Hamlet: ‘I pray you all,/ If you have hitherto concealed this sight/ Let it be tenable in your silence still.’ Hamlet wishes to keep the ghost a secret, perhaps at the recognition that he may reveal sensitive information – i.e, that he was murdered. Secrecy would help him achieve any vengeful objectives.
Hamlet: ‘My father’s spirit in arms? All is not well’ Hamlet believes the appearance of his father’s spirit to suggest that something needs to be solved/ his death needs to be avenged. He does not believe the apparition to be inconsequential.

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