Hamlet Quotes to Know – Act 1

1.1.60 “Such was the very armour he had on/ When he the ambitious Norway combatted./ So frowned he once, when, in an angry parle,/ He smote the sledded Pollacks on the ice.” Speaker: HoratioSpoken to: Marcellus and BarnardoMeaning: The ghost looks exactly like the King had in life, dressed in the armor he wore when he killed the king of Norway. This is important, because Horatio is a scholar and is less inclined to believe in ghosts.
1.1.80 ” . . . Our last king/ Whose image even but now appear’d to us . . . Of this post-haste and romage in the land.” Speaker: Horatio Spoken to: Marcellus and Barnardo Meaning: A long time ago, King Hamlet and King Fortinbras had some type of fight. The winner of the fight would get all the territories held by the loser that were not the mainland. King Hamlet killed King Fortinbras. Now, many years later, Prince Fortinbras has gathered an army to retake the lost lands.
1.1.112 “A mote is to trouble the mind’s eye.” Speaker: HoratioSpoken to: Marcellus and BarnardoMeaning: The ghost is a bad omen and should be taken seriously. He makes a parallel to the events that happened before Caesar’s murder.
1.1.114 “A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,/ The grave stood tenantless . . . “ Speaker: HoratioSpoken to: Marcellus and BarnardoMeaning: The ghost is a bad omen and should be taken seriously. He makes a parallel to the events that happened before Caesar’s murder.
1.1.124 “Prologue to the omen coming on,/ Have heaven and earth together demonstrated/ Unto our climatures and countrymen.” Speaker: HoratioSpoken to: Marcellus and BarnardoMeaning: The ghost is a bad omen and should be taken seriously. He makes a parallel to the events that happened before Caesar’s murder.
1.2.2 ” . . . That it us befitted/ To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom/ To be contracted in one brow of woe . . . “ Speaker: King ClaudiusSpoken to: AllMeaning: He is lamenting briefly his brother’s death, but reminds his people that they need to move forward and defend their country, who is so often at war, especially with Prince Fortinbras pestering them to give back the lands King Hamlet took.
1.2.8 “Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,/ Th’ imperial jointress to this warlike state . . . “ Speaker: King ClaudiusSpoken to: AllMeaning: He is lamenting briefly his brother’s death, but reminds his people that they need to move forward and defend their country, who is so often at war, especially with Prince Fortinbras threatening to take back the lands King Hamlet took.
1.2.17 ” . . . Young Fortinbras,/ Holding a weak supposal of our worth/ Or thinking by our late brother’s death/ Our state to be disjoint and out of frame . . . “ Speaker: King ClaudiusSpoken to: AllMeaning: Young Fortinbras thinks this is a good time to attack as the kingdom is transitioning from Hamlet’s reign to that of Claudius.
1.2.66 “A little more than kin and less than kind.” Speaker: HamletSpoken to: AsideMeaning: Claudius is now closer kin than before as he has become Hamlet’s step-father as well as his uncle. Kind can refer to Hamlet not feeling “kind” to Claudius (he hates him) or can mean that Claudius has betrayed his kind (race) with his incestuous marriage.
1.2.66 “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” Speaker: CladiusSpoken to: HamletMeaning: King Claudius is trying to convince Hamlet to be less morose and move on from his grief over his father’s death.
1.2.67 ‘Not so, my lord. I am too much in the sun.” Speaker: HamletSpoken to: King ClaudiusMeaning: Allusion to the proverb “Out of heaven’s blessing into the warm sun,” i.e. passing from a good state into one less favourable. Also a pun on sun/son — Hamlet is “too much” Claudius’ son — another reference to Hamlet’s disgust at his mother’s marriage.
1.2.78 “‘Seems,’ madam? Nay, it is. I know not ‘seems.'” Speaker: HamletSpoken to: GertrudeMeaning: He is not pretending to be sad, but genuinely is very upset, implying that she should also still be grieving.
1.2.94 “‘Tis unmanly grief.” Speaker: King ClaudiusSpoken to: HamletMeaning: It’s time to stop crying for your father. Also, if Hamlet is unmanly, he is not fit to rule in this time of impending war, and it is therefore better that Claudius (a real man) be in charge.
1.2.132 “Or that the Everlasting had not fixed/ His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter!” Speaker: HamletSpoken to: No OneMeaning: Were it not for God’s law (the commandment against murder also applies to suicide), Hamlet would kill himself, or at least consider doing so.
1.2.46 “Frailty, the name is woman!” Speaker: HamletSpoken to: No OneMeaning: women cannot be depended upon
1.2.80 ” . . . The funeral baked meats/ Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.” Speaker: HamletSpoken to: HoratioMeaning: Horatio came to pay respects at King Hamlet’s funeral. Hamlet expresses his anger at how quickly the marriage followed. (He claims the leftover food from the funeral was used for the wedding feast.)
1.2.243 “If it assume my noble father’s person,/ I’ll speak to it, though Hell itself should gape/ And bid me hold my peace.” Speaker: HamletSpoken to: HoratioMeaning: Hamlet plans to talk to the spirit, even if doing so puts his soul at risk of damnation.
1.2.247 “Let it be tenable in your silence still.” Speaker: HamletSpoken to: HoratioMeaning: Hamlet plans to go see the spirit. He wants the others to keep quiet about what they’ve seen and not talk of it.
1.3.14 ” . . . Perhaps he loves you now,/ And now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch/ The virtue of his will, but you must fear.” Speaker: LaertesSpoken to: OpheliaMeaning: Laertes is advising Ophelia to watch herself with Hamlet. Even if he loves her now, he may change his mind or may not be able to love her in the future due to his duty to the royal family.
1.3.33 “Fear it, Ophelia. Fear it, my dear sister,/ And keep you in the rear of your affection,/ Out of the shot and danger of desire.” Speaker: LaertesSpoken to: OpheliaMeaning: Don’t let your emotions or desires overcome your good sense.
1.3.59 ” . . . Give thy thoughts no tongue,/ Nor any unproportioned thought his act.” Speaker: PoloniusSpoken to: LaertesMeaning: Polonius is giving his son lots of advice to follow while he’s in France. The speech exemplifies Polonius’ high regard for his own opinions, as well as how he enjoys to hear him himself speak.
1.3.96 “You do not understand yourself so clearly/ As it behooves my daughter and your honor.” Speaker: PoloniusSpoken to: OpheliaMeaning: Ophelia is on the verge of bringing dishonor to the family and Polonius by meeting Hamlet unchaperoned.
1.4.11 ” . . . The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out/ The triumph of his pledge.” Speaker: HamletSpoken to: HoratioMeaning: Hamlet explains what he sees as the stupid tradition of his people where the new king gets drinks from all of the nobles, and then consummates his marriage with the Queen. He says this is why other countries think Denmark to be full of drunkards. One flaw can ruin an entire country’s reputation.
1.4.65 “I do not set my life in a pin’s fee . . . “ Speaker: HamletSpoken to: HoratioMeaning: The ghost is beckoning to Hamlet to come with it, but Horatio doesn’t trust the ghost. It might be the spirit of Hamlet’s father, but it could also be an illusion sent by the devil to bring about Hamlet’s ruin. He is worried that the ghost is taking Hamlet to a place where his life is in danger. Hamlet does not value his life, so he is not concerned about potential danger. (Putting his life in danger is not the equivalent of suicide and he is depressed to the point of not wanting to live.)
1.5.25 “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” Speaker: Ghost of HamletSpoken to: HamletThe ghost claims that King Hamlet was murdered and demands revenge. If the ghost is sent by Satan, revenge by Hamlet would corrupt his soul.
1.5.37 “But know, thought noble youth,/ The serpent that did sting thy father’s life/ Now wears his crown.” Speaker: Ghost of HamletSpoken to: HamletMeaning: the ghost tells that Claudius is King Hamlet’s murderer. This validates what Hamlet already believed. Playing on Hamlet’s doubts would be a Satanic technique, but if the ghost is really King Hamlet’s spirit, Hamlet does need to expose the murderer.
1.5.140 “And now, good friends,/ As you are friends, scholars and soldiers,/ Give me one poor request . . ./ Never make known what you have seen tonight.” Speaker: HamletSpoken to: Horatio and MarcellusMeaning: Hamlet wants the two to swear to never speak of what happened that night to anyone.
1.5.67 “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/ Then are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Speaker: HamletSpoken to: Horatio and MarcellusMeaning: Hamlet knows there are things at work here bigger than he or the others. He tells the men he will be acting bizarrely, but that they should give no indication that they know why.

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