Shakespeare quotes, notes, timelines & more

Home » Reading Will » Figures of Speech » Reading Will » Hamlet

Hamlet

Written: c. 1600; Texts: Quartos 1603 (Q1 bad quarto), 1604 or 1605 (Q2 variously dated), First Folio 1623 (Tragedy)
Source: Thomas Kyd (1558-94). Ur-Hamlet (c. 1589); Francois de Belleforest (1530-83). Histories Tragiques Book 5 (1570)
Characters: Hamlet, Claudius, Polonius, Horatio, Laertes, Gertrude, Ophelia, Ghost of Hamlet's Father; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Setting: Elsinor Castle, Denmark
Time: c. 9th Century

The soliloquy reaches a new level of importance within this play. In no other play by Shakespeare does the dramatic conflict become more central within a single character than it does in Hamlet himself. And so this part becomes an actor's great challenge – acting against himself, alone on stage. The part is made more difficult since literary critics don't agree on exactly what Hamlet's problem is. Is he struggling to bring himself to avenge his father's death out of fear or from genuine uncertainty about the veracity of what may or may not be his father's ghost? Is spectral evidence enough to commit murder or does he need corroboration? Is he procrastinating or searching for genuine proof of his uncle's purported crime?

Video: To Be Or Not To Be

Read the Note

David Tennant as Hamlet in a film of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s award-winning production of Shakespeare’s greatest play.


… continue reading this note

Hamlet’s First Soliloguy

Read the Note

This is Hamlet’s first extended soliloquy.
… continue reading this note

Birds — Martial and Marital

Read the Note

In Hamlet (1.1.432), a cock trumpets in the morn, a bird more fitting to the combative nature of Hamlet than the lark that heralds the morn after the first night of marital bliss in Romeo and Juliet (3.5.6).
… continue reading this note

Hamlet’s Last Soliloquy

Read the Note

Hamlet’s final soliloquy appears in earlier quarto versions of the play but is omitted from the First Folio. Scholars continue to debate reasons for this.
… continue reading this note

Hamlet’s First Words

Read the Note

Hamlet’s first words in the play, about being more kin than kind, are an aside, not to another character but to himself. This Hamlet’s first and shortest soliloquy. Fittingly, they introduce Hamlet’s propensity for seeing a situation in two different and opposing lights, and his inclination to muse on his condition to himself rather than to discourse with another character.
… continue reading this note

Seasons, Elements and Humors

Read the Note

The four seasons, the four elements and the four humors were all related. The four seasons spring, summer, autumn and winter paralleled the four humors blood/sanguine, yellow bile/choleric, phlegm/phlegmatic and black bile/melancholic, which in turn paralleled the four elements air, fire, water and earth. Good health and good disposition of character or personality were believed to be a matter of keeping one’s humors in proper balance.
… continue reading this note

In the most high and palmy state of Rome

Read the Quote

In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.
As stars with trains of fire, and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star,
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands,
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.
… continue reading this quote

Act 1
Scene 1
Line 124

Source Type:

Spoken by:

Themes:

Figures of Speech:

But soft, behold! Lo where it comes again!

Read the Quote

But soft, behold! Lo, where it comes again!
I’ll cross it though it blast me. Stay, illusion!
It spreads his arms.
If thou hast any sound or use of voice,
Speak to me.
If there be any good thing to be done
That may to thee do ease, and grace to me,
Speak to me.

… continue reading this quote

Act 1
Scene 1
Line 138

Source Type:

Spoken by:

Themes:
,

Figures of Speech:
,

It was about to speak when the cock crew

Read the Quote

Barnardo
It was about to speak when the cock crew.
Horatio
And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons.Simile
I have heard
The cock, that is the trumpet to the mornMetaphor,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day,
… continue reading this quote

Act 1
Scene 1
Line 162

Source Type:

Spoken by:
, ,

Themes:
, , ,

Figures of Speech:
, , ,

Connected Notes:
Seasons, Elements and Humors, Birds — Martial and Marital

Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death

Read the Quote

Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death
The memory be green, and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom
To be contracted in one brow of woe,
Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature
That we with wisest sorrow think on him
Together with remembrance of ourselves.

With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
… continue reading this quote

Act 1
Scene 2
Line 1

Source Type:

Spoken by:

Figures of Speech:

And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you?

Read the Quote

King Claudius
And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you?
You told us of some suit. What is ’t, Laertes?
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane
And lose your voice. What wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
The head is not more native to the heart,
The hand more instrumental to the mouth,
… continue reading this quote

Act 1
Scene 2
Line 42

Source Type:

Spoken by:
, , ,

Themes:

Figures of Speech:

Connected Notes:
Hamlet’s First Words

O that this too too solid flesh would melt

Read the Quote

O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God, God,
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!

O God, God,
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
… continue reading this quote

Act 1
Scene 2
Line 133

Source Type:

Spoken by:

Themes:
, ,

Figures of Speech:
, , , , ,

Connected Notes:
Hamlet’s First Soliloguy

Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain

Read the Quote

Laertes
Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain
If with too credent ear you list his songs
PolysyndetonOr lose your heart or your chaste treasure open
To his unmastered importunity.Circumlocution

Fear it, Ophelia; fear it, my dear sister,Diacope
And keep you in the rear of your affection,
… continue reading this quote

The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail

Read the Quote

The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stayed for. There, my blessing with thee.
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,
… continue reading this quote

Act 1
Scene 3
Line 61

Source Type:

Spoken by:

Themes:

But, to my mind, though I am native here

Read the Quote

But, to my mind, though I am native here
And to the manner born, it is a custom
More honor’d in the breach than the observance.
This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduc’d and tax’d of other nations.
They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition. And, indeed, it takes
From our achievements,
… continue reading this quote

Act 1
Scene 4
Line 16

Source Type:

Spoken by:

It will not speak. Then I will follow it

Read the Quote

Hamlet
It will not speak. Then I will follow it.
Horatio
Do not, my lord.
Hamlet
Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life at a pin’s fee.
And for my soul, what can it do to that,
Being a thing immortal as itself?
It waves me forth again.
… continue reading this quote

Act 1
Scene 4
Line 70

Source Type:

Spoken by:
, ,

Themes:
,