Blog

Hamlet - Study Notes And Quotes

This is a guest post from former vce student erin lancaster for vce literature on hamlet. If you want to write a guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Fortune

  • “time is out of joint o cursed spite that I was ever born to set it right” hamlet

  • “there’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough –hew them how we will” horatio

  • “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” hamlet

  • “the cat will mew, and the dog will have his day.” hamlet

  • “there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow”

  • “things standing thus unknown shall live behind me!” hamlet the future will happen despite me not being in it, as he’s dying

  • “with sorrow I embrace my fortune” hamlet as he is dying

Surveillance

  • “where is your father?” hamlet to ophelia (realises he is being watched)

  • “follow her close; give her good watch, I pray you” claudius

Existence (first principals)

  • “there is nothing either good or bad but in the thinking make it so” hamlet

  • “in a fiction, in a dream of passion, all for nothing (appalled at self because the players can portray a more real emotion than he can conjure despite him having the perfect circumstances to do so)

  • “to be or not to be: that is the question” hamlet

- “whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.”

- “to die, to sleep – no more – and by a sleep to say we end the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to! Tis a consummation devoutly to be wishes.”

- “to die, to sleep – to sleep – perchance to dream: aye, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause there’s the respect that makes calamity of so long life: for who would bear the whips and scorns of time th’ oppresses wrong, proud man’s contumely, the pains of despised love, the laws delay, the insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of th’ unworthy takes when he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin.”

- “who would fardels bear, to grunt and sweat under a weary life, but that the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns puzzles the will and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of?”

- “thus conscience does make cowards of us all, and thus the nature hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pitch and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, and loose the name of action”

  • “to thine own self be true” polonius

  • “a dream itself is but a shadow” hamlet

Mortality/futility

  • Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt thaw and resolve itself into a dew (futility of life; solid: association of flesh with corruption cf: ‘quintessence of dust&rsquowink

  • “if it be now, ‘tis not to come…let be” hamlet’s resignation regarding death re the duel

  • “horatio I am dead; thou livest; report me and my cause aright to the unsatisfied.” hamlet

  • “the rest is silence.” hamlet

  • “all that lives must die passing through nature to eternity’ claudius

  • “my pulse as yours does temporarily keep time as healthful music” hamlet

  • “we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots” hamlet talking about where he hid polonius

  • “that skull had a tongue in it and could sing once” hamlet referring to yorrick

  • “why may not imagination trace the noble dust of alexander till ‘a find it stopping a bung hole” hamlet

The human condition

  • “a beast that wants discourse of reason would have mourned longer” hamlet (to his mother)

  • “what a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, inform and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an 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?” hamlet to r and g

  • “one woe doth tread upon another’s heel” gertrude

Theatre and life

  • “in a fiction, in a dream of passion, all for nothing (appalled at self because the players can portray a more real emotion than he can conjure despite him having the perfect circumstances to do so)

  • “had he the motive and cue for passion”

  • “what’s hecuba to him, or he to hecuba, that he should weep for her?” hamlet

Reality and illusion

  • “that one may smile, and smile, and still be a villain.” hamlet re claudius.

  • “god hath given you one face and you make for yourselves another” hamlet

  • “with a crafty madness keeps aloof when we could bring him on to some confession of his true state” guildenstern

  • ‘rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind” ophelia

  • “you do bend your eye on vacancy, and with the incorporal air do hold discourse” gertrude to hamlet when he speaks to the ghost of his father

  • “how cheerfully on the false trail they cry” queen referring to the public in their cries for laertes to be king”

Thought and action

  • ‘words without thoughts never to heaven go” claudius in his confession; ironic

  • “the readiness is all” (before his duel with laertes, incongruous to his consistent inaction throughout the course of the play.)

  • “whet thy almost blunted purpose” the ghosts second visit discussing hamlet’s inaction.

  • “…this is I / hamlet the dane” hamlets new decisiveness.

  • “pyrrhus stood, and like a neutral to his will and matter did nothing” player (unlike hamlet pyrrhus’ indecision is momentary. ”pyrrhus’ bleeding sword now fall on priam&rdquowink

  • “thus conscience does make cowards of us all, and thus the nature hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pitch and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, and loose the name of action” hamlet

  • “I have cause, and will, and strength, and means to do ‘t” hamlet after seeing fortinbras army

Filial/cultural obligation

  • Hamlet and claudius

- “ a little more than kin and less than kind” (play on words; hamlet laments the closeness of claudius, uses the phonetic similarity as a means to create a contrast between the assumed benevolence of ‘kin’ and the reality of the situation)

- “that father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound in filial obligation for some term”

- “tis unmanly grief” claudius (playing on the traditional notions of masculine, and hamlet must be like a father to the people of denmark, trying to guilt him into fulfilling his role, effective in persuading hamlet because his predisposition to abhor womankind)

  • Hamlet and old hamlet

- “a villain kills my father, and for that I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven” hamlet while claudius is praying

  • Hamlet and gertrude

- “let thine eye look like a friend on denmark” gertrude to hamlet

  • Laertes

- “that drop of blood that’s clam proclaims me bastard, cries cuckold to my father, brands the harlot even here between the chaste unsmirched brow of my true mother” laertes on returning and finding his father dead. He cant be calm about the death of polonius to do so would mean that he is not polonius’ son. That would mean that his mother had him out of wedlock. Therefore polonius would be a ‘cuckold’ and his mother a ‘harlot’ however because he is polonius’ son he is obligated to become outraged at polonius’ death.

- “laertes, was your father dear to you? Or are you like the painting of a sorrow, a face without a heart?” claudius manipulating laertes via filial obligation

Canon law/superstition

  • A mote it is to trouble the minds eye (horatio; the speck lodges in the mind stimulating speculation)

  • “I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound” hamlet (after his successful experiment of the mousetrap play)

  • “tis now the very witching time of night” hamlet

  • “may one be pardoned and retain the offence” claudius (in confession)

  • “how can that be unless she drowned herself in her own defense” (the gravedigger)

  • “if this had not been a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o’ christian burial” gravedigger

  • “I’ll cross it though it blast me’ horatio (on the appearance of the ghost)

  • “do not, as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine, himself to the primrose path of dalliance treads and recks not his own rede” ophelia to laertes (warns against hypocrisy specifically against those who cannot heed their own advice)

  • “I am thy father’s spirit doomed for a certain term to walk the night and for the day confined to fast and fires, till the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burnt and purged away” old hamlet

  • “oh my offence is rank it smells to heaven” claudius

  • “my fault is past. But, oh, what form o f prayer can serve my term? “forgive me my foul murder?” that cannot be since I am still possessed of those effects for which I did the murder, my crown, my own ambition and my queen” claudius

  • “confess yourself to heaven, repent what’s past, avoid what is to come, and do not spread the compost on the weeds to make them ranker” hamlet’s advice to gertrude re her relationship with claudius

  • “is she to be buried in christian burial when she willfully seeks her own salvation?” clown

Attitudes to women- frailty thy name is woman

  • “the chariest maid is prodigal enough if she unmask her beauty to the moon. Virtue itself scapes not calumnious strokes. The canker galls the infants of the spring too oft before their buttons be disclosed and in the morn and liquid due of youth contagious blastments are most imminent ” laertes (advising ophelia not to be moral. The canker is a worm, springs is fruit, people who act immorally in their youth can suffer later the effects)

  • “man delights not me; nor woman neither” hamlet to r and g

  • “such an act that blurs the grace and blush of modesty calls virtue hypocrite” hamlet, responding to the queen who is asking why he s angry with her

Relationship between hamlet and gertrude

- “pernicious women”

- “I will speak daggers to her but use none” hamlet

- “incestuous pleasure”

- “a bloody deed – almost as bad, good mother as kill a king, and marry his brother” hamlet

- “such an act that blurs the grace and blush of modesty, calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose from the fair forehead of an innocent love, and sets a blister there” hamlet thinking of ophelia as the innocent love whom he has treated like a harlot. Compares with gertrude whom he feels justified in treating so”

Relationship between hamlet and ophelia

- “fishmonger” (elizabethan colloquialism for a pimp, referring to polonius)

- “I loved ophelia” at her funeral

“get thee to a nunnery” (‘nunnery’ is slang for brothel)
- “wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?”

- “I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not born me”

- “I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape or time to act them in”

- “what should such fellows as I do crawling between heaven and earth? We are arrant knaves all; believe none of us”

- “I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny (to avoid defamation for being an immoral woman)

- “or if thou wilt needs marry, marry as fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them”

- “god hath given you one face and you make for yourselves another”

- “you jig and amble, and you lisp; you nickname god’s creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance”

Politics/ state of denmark

  • “this bodes some strange eruption to our state” 1.1.69 (the appearance of the ghost)

  • “my father spirit, in arms! All is not well/I doubt some foul play” hamlet

  • “for on his choice/ depends the sanctity and health of this whole state” polonius

  • “something is rotten in the state of denmark” marcellus

  • “time is out of joint o cursed spite that I was ever born to set it right” hamlet

  • “I am sick at heart” francesco

  • “the grave stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead did squeak and gibber in the roman streets” horatio (compares the advent of supernatural occurrences in denmark to the strange occurrences preceding the fall of julius cesar’s regime suggests that the appearance of the ghost may indicate the imminence of claudius’ downfall)

  • “I see the imminent death of twenty thousand men for a fantasy and trick of fame go to their graves like beds” hamlet re fortinbras campaign against denmark

  • “I do prophesy th’ election lights on fortinbras. He has my dying voice” hamlet

  • Divine right of kings

- “there’s such divinity doth hedge a king” claudius

Norway

- “what might be toward that this sweaty haste/ doth make the night joint-labourer with the day.” marcellus (norway works through the night in preparation for war)

- “we go to gain a little patch of ground that hath in it no profit but the name” captain to hamlet

- “post-haste and romage of the land” refers to the busyness of norway

Hamlet’s state of mind

  • Depression

- oh that this too too solid flesh would melt thaw and resolve itself into a dew (futility of life; solid: association of flesh with corruption cf: ‘quintessence of dust&rsquowink

- “how weary, stale and unprofitable” refers to the mortal plain.

- how ill all’s here about my heart.” (premonition before his duel with laertes)

- “my soul is full of discord and dismay”

- “ the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals; and yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?” hamlet to r and g

- “man delights not me; nor woman neither” hamlet to r and g

  • Antic disposition

- “put an antic disposition on”

- “this is the very ecstasy of love’ polonius (refers to the manifestation of hamlet’s feigned madness)

- “oh what a noble mind is here o’erthrown” (ophelia, after the get to the nunnery scene, she uses madness to explain his actions)

- hamlet asks laertes forgiveness asking blaming his “sore distraction” for the damage he’s done

- “his father’s death and our o’erhasty marriage.” this is gertrude’s reason for hamlet’s madness.

- ‘sith nor th’ exterior nor the inward man resembles that it was” gertrude

- the cause of hamlets madness was “his father’s death and his mother’s o’erhasty marriage” gertrude

- “turbulent and dangerous lunacy’ hamlet

- “and you can by no drift of conference get from him why he puts on this confusion” claudius to r and g

- “madness in great ones must not unwatched go’ claudius to polonius

- “his liberty is full of threats for us all” claudius

  • Attitudes to self

- “o what a rogue and peasant slave I am” hamlet

Revenge

  • Hamlet

- “it is not, nor it cannot come to good” (foreshadows the tragic nature of the play)

- “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” old hamlet

- “and so I am revenged. That would scanned” (hamlet. Rationale for him not killing him at that point as he wishes to condemn his soul but murdering him while he’s sinning. Similar to claudius: claudius does not feel the same sense of grace as he still feels guilt over the murder of his brother and feels he cannot be forgiven while enjoying the fruits of this ‘foul deed&rsquowink

- “thou incestuous, murderous, damned dane.” (when hamlet gets to acting on his mandate for revenge, he degrades claudius.)

- “whet thy almost blunted purpose” the ghosts second visit discussing hamlet’s inaction.

- “the plays the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” hamlet

- “a villain kills my father, and for that I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven” hamlet while claudius is praying

- “all occasions do inform against me and spur my dull revenge” hamlet (everything is set against him but it makes him feel like committing revenge more)

-

  • Laertes

- “and where th’ offence is let the great axe fall” (claudius justifying and inciting revenge against hamlet for the death of polonius)

- “to hell allegiance, vows to the blackest devil, conscience and grace to the profoundest pit.” laertes doesn’t care about the consequences of revenge unlike hamlet

- “that swoop stake you will draw both friend and foe, winner and loser” claudius manipulating laertes desire for revenge for his own cause

- “revenge should have no bounds” claudius to laertes

- “I’ll touch my point with this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly, it may be death” laertes

- “hamlet this pearl is thine here’s to thy health” claudius as he passes hamlet the poisoned cup

-

  • Fortinbras

- “with conquest came from poland” horatio

Imagery/symbolism

  • Disease and decay:

- “tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature”’.

- “and in the morn and liquid dew of youth contagious blastments are most imminent” (1.3.42)

- “till the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burnt and purged away” (1.5.14)

- “taint not thy mind” (1.5.85)

- “for if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion” (2.2.79)

- “something is rotten in the state of denmark” (1.4.90)

- the madness is symbolic of the deeper social malaise.

- “foul deeds”

- “offal”

- “rank corruption, mining all within”

- “the ulcerous place”

- “I am sick at heart”

- “like a mildew’d ear, blasting his wholesome brother.”

- “…do not spread compost on the weeds to make them ranker”

- “why, it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors hamlet (all illness and infection were attributed to vapors in elizabethan times, in comparing the earths inhabitants to such a grouping hamlet reveals his perception of mankind as poisonous as they can not effect any change except for that which is negative)

- “so shall you hear of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts, of accidental judgments, casual slaughters, of death’s put on by cunning and forced cause, and, in this upshot, purposes mistook fall ‘n on th’ inventors head all this I can truly deliver” hamlet and did deliver! As he is dying

Hamlet

  • “he’s loved of the distracted multitude” (claudius)

Gertrude

  • “what have I done?” (after hamlet’s questioning her in her bedroom; proves her innocence)
  • ‘the imperial jointress to this warlike state’ claudius
  • “daggers enter in my ears” ophelia’s response to hamlet’s criticism
  • “most seeming virtuous queen” old hamlet

Claudius

  • “smiling damned villain” hamlet

  • “how smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!” (while seeing play)

  • “that incestuous, that adulterate beast” old hamlet

  • “a murder and a villain, a slave that is not twentieth part the tithe of your precedent lord” hamlet to gertrude

Old hamlet

  • “valiant hamlet (for so this side of our known world esteemed him)” the description of old hamlet as valiant creates a contrast between his actions and the actions of young hamlet throughout the play that are essentially reactionary and hardly honourable.

  • ‘a countenance more in sorrow than in anger”

Ophelia

  • “kind sister’

  • “I hoped thou shouldst have been my hamlet’s wife” gertrude at ophelia’s funeral

  • Madness

- “a young maid’s wits/ should be as mortal as an old man’s life” laertes (the frailty of sanity)

- “enter ophelia distracted” (stage direction)

- “before you tumbled me you promised me to wed” during her mad speech

- “o, this is the poison of deep grief: it springs all from her fathers death” ophelia

- “in huggermugger to inter him; poor ophelia divided from himself and her fair judgement, without the which we are pictures of mere beasts” claudius

Polonius

“foolish prating knave” hamlet (after he has killed polonius)
Horatio

“thou art a scholar” marcellus.

Fortinbras

  • “of unimproved metal hot and full” horatio

Erin lancaster has recently survived year 12 and is looking to move from her small town of picola (population: 100 people) in regional victoria to melbourne next year to study music. She plays the violin, sings and enjoys writing especially in her blog www.Strandedgypsygirl.Wordpress.Com and will read anything she can get her hands on! Her favourite quote it by mark twain, "So let us live so that when we die even the undertaker will be sorry"

Contact Us

Please fill out all inquiries below.